In my last post I described the last twenty years as the "Dark Ages" of Congolese music. I'll admit that this isn't my main area of interest or expertise, and the stuff I have heard is mostly from Paris-based Congo musicians, but I stand by my judgment for the most part. What has the Paris-Congo axis produced in the last two decades? Mainly endless posturing and rehashing of past glories (cf. Soukous Vibration!). Please prove me wrong!
I do concede that there have been a few bright spots in Congo music lately. Of course, I loved the two Congotronics releases on CramWorld. Another artist who redeems Congo music for me is the great Bozi Boziana.
Bozi got his start in Zaïko Langa-Langa, the first and most influential of the "New Wave" bands that burst onto the Kinshasa scene toward the end of the '60s. From there he journeyed through a veritable "Who's Who" of the Congo music world: Isifi Lokolé, Yoka Lokolé, Langa-Langa Stars and the Choc Stars, finally establishing his own Anti-Choc about twenty years ago.
Anti-Choc's first releases were decent enough party music but I think Boziana realized something was missing because around '88 he started teaming up with a series of spunky female vocalists - notably Joly (or Jolie) Detta (with Bozi Boziana, above) and Déesse (or Deyess) Mukangi, and the results were nothing less than sublime. The best of his recordings with these two stellar singers were gathered in two compilations issued around 1997 by Ngoyarto, now sadly out of print.
Here are two recordings from Anti-Choc's early work, enjoyable if rather formulaic examples of the Kinshasa/Paris sound as it existed in the late '80s, featuring light-fingered guitar playing and noteworthy vocals marred by rather irritating synthesizer work. "Adieu l'Ami" is from Anti-Choc (Sterns 1022, 1988):
Anti-Choc - Adieu l'Ami
"Pot Pourri 18 Ans de Succes," from 18 Ans de Succes (Mualaba Lukusa SIC 003, 1988) is a medley of tunes Bozi Boziana recorded with various groups throughout the Seventies and Eighties. The complete playlist is as follows:
1. Tshala (Choc-Stars)Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc - Pot Pourri 18 Ans de Succes
2. Touou Muana CFA (Zaïko Langa-Langa)
3. Diana Ya Mama (Zaïko Langa-Langa)
4. La-Mignone (Langa-Langa Stars)
5. Alena (Choc-Stars)
6. Sandu Kotti (Choc-Stars)
7. Sisina (Choc-Stars)
8. Expplication Sisi (Anti-Choc)
Now here's where I prove my point that the collaboration of Bozi Boziana, Déesse Mukangi and Joly Detta marked a quantum leap forward for Anti-Choc and Congo music in general. Bozi Boziana has one of the sweetest, most plaintive voices in African music. Of course, I don't understand Lingala, but he usually sounds like he's hurtin'! But listen to Bozi when he teams up with those two sassy ladies, Joly and Déesse. Talk about synergy! The interplay between the voices, guitar and synthesizer in these tracks is unequaled. The first three tunes here are taken from The Collection Bozi Boziana Vol. 1 featuring Jolly Detta & Déesse (Ngoyarto NG 020), the last two from The Collection Bozi Boziana Vol. 2 featuring Déesse, Scola Miel (Nza Wissa) & Betty (Ngoyarto NG 021):
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Joly Detta - La Reine de Sabah
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Joly Detta - Evelyne
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Ba Bokilo
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Fleur de Lys
Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc w. Déesse - Lelo Makambo Lobi Makambo
It makes you wonder why more African bands don't make use of female vocalists. Of course, Tabu Ley and Afrisa International had M'Bilia Bel (before their rancorous falling-out), and Franco and TPOK Jazz made use of Joly Detta herself on one memorable recording, but this great cultural resource has generally been underutilized.
Déesse has made a couple of solo recordings (Little Goddess on Sterns [STCD 1040, 1992] was a standout), while providing backup vocals on a number of recordings. Joly Detta, sadly, has kept under the radar, but you can view her in a wonderful recording with TPOK Jazz here.
Discography of Bozi Boziana & Anti-Choc