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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Lokua Kanza

By Derek Beres
Published March 24, 2006

Toyebi Té

Watching Lokua Kanza live, you’re first struck with his ease of performance, segueing from acoustic lightness to warm-hearted, humorous dialogue with his audience. His confident nature—and refreshing sentimentality—is captured perfectly on Toyebi Té, a soft offering of modernist Africa. A native of Bukavu, he moved to Paris in 1984 to embark on his solo career, collaborating with the likes of Miriam Makeba, Youssou N’Dour, and Natalie Merchant. Songwriter and musical theorist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Kanza is a patient and devoted artist, a quality immediately apparent in his catchy hooks and minimal instrumentation. The opening “Tika Ngaï” is French acappella reminiscent of, strangely enough, the best of Freddie Mercury’s melodies. “Mbiffé” is equally catchy, and the few English attempts, such as “Good Bye,” are extremely radio friendly—if radio started playing solid pop material. The album does remain on the soft side, tough to weather for 16 tracks, but if you plan on spending a rainy afternoon meditating on the puddles in the sidewalks, Toyebi Té may just be your soundtrack.