For over two decades Zairiain singer-composer-bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau has been a superstar in Africa–and, along with guitarist-bandleader Franco, is one of the two reigning masters of the soukous or Congolese music that has be come a mainstay of pan-African popular culture. Soukous is basically a romantic dance music in which a skipping, driving rhumbalike beat punctuated by staccato horn blasts forms a setting for the singer’s extended meditations on life and love, sung in Lingala or French. It bears a detectable resemblance to salsa, and is also the original source of the chiming, twinkling guitar style later appropriated by Nigerian juju musicians like Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade. Rochereau is not only a world-class funkateer but also one of the world’s great soul singers, who achieves his distinction not through power but through his mastery of a distinctive melodic lilt, turning notes and phrases in a dulcet croon that in the U.S. might find a rough analogue in the work of Sam Cooke or Al Green. Rochereau’s act, which I can hardly wait to see, is reportedly structured not unlike an old-fashioned American R & B revue, with the bandleader periodically stepping aside to let his proteges take turns fronting the formidable Orchestra Afrisa International. All of which promises to offer not only a great deal of melodic and polyrhythmic interest, but also an excellent remedy for the February blahs, if you need it. Tonight and Saturday, 9 PM, Central American Club, 4001 N. Broadway; 978-1530, 508-5301, 684-1345, or 348-2978.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stuart Napier.