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Kanda Bongo Man "Soukous in Central Park" Hannibal

March 25, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

This is one of the liveliest Afro-pop groups around. Soukous, the Zairean answer to rumba, is closely related to the juju music of such Nigerian bands as King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey but with a stronger Caribbean influence that gives it a more fluid lilt, centered not on percussion but on chiming, circular guitar lines. As anyone who as seen Kanda Bongo Man in person can tell you, he and his band can make even the most inanimate listener want to dance.

One need not know the words to these songs to comprehend the spirit inside them--which is fortunate, since this record company is one of many that for some reason neglects to include lyric sheets with African recordings. It would be enlightening to know just what it is that's making these folks so joyful (at least the title of the elegantly bouncy "Yesu Christu" provides a clue). Kanda has one of those soothingly raspy voices that could handle American soul music nicely if he were so inclined. The only thing about the band that is not evident here is the extra kinetic energy supplied by dancers Leonie and Fatou. For that, you'll have to spring for a concert ticket.

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