The packaging for the Crammed Records' Roots of Rumba Rock (Congo Classics 1953-1955) double-disc reissue immediately captures the eye, with its scarlet & white lettering hovering atop a Congolese gentleman adjusting the dial of an antique radio. The photographs inside the the disc are just as captivating, with musicians and dancers lost in the rhythm, and they are a reflection of the music on the disc.
This isn't something that you're going to pop into your CD player and listen to from beginning to end. It's not Congotronics, though Vincent Kenis compiled the collection. It's a collection with the theme the jubilation of emergence - a satisfaction of living in the moment, a happiness that these people are in a studio, in front of a microphone, or on a dance floor, spending their time inside the music, an escape from the everyday.
The origins of Congolese rumba, its strange links with traditional music, French crooners and Belgian brass bands… the spectacular reappropriation of Afro-Cuban music by Kinshasa musicians who recognized some of the old likembe (thumb piano) patterns originally brought to Cuba by deported Congolese slaves and proceeded to adapt them to the electric guitar… the social context, the lifestyle of Congolese musicians in the early Fifties… all of that and much more is extensively described in the liner notes written by Kenis and based on interviews with musicians from that era.
Kitenge - Odjali Na Mouchoir? ("Have You Got A Handkerchief?")(mp3)
"Break! Break! (Roll Your Hips) It feels good! What if we die tomorrow? Never mind, cherie! Break! Break!"
Liengo - Tembe Na Tembe ("Fight After Fight") (mp3)
Lisanga Pauline - Menagere (mp3)
A menagere was a white man's concubine - and quite pertinently, this song features the rhythms of two worlds: the tango...and the polka pike...