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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Kanda Bongo Man

By Chris Heim
Published July 18, 2008

Soukous Time

Why soukous, the zippy update of Congolese rumba, never quite seemed to catch on internationally remains a mystery—about the closest it came was on the bustling Paris scene in the ’80s. If you missed that round, or have been looking for another hit of this delightfully insistent African dance music, one of the big stars of that era, Kanda Bongo Man, is back to proclaim that it’s Soukous Time again. The first album in five years from the sharp-dressing, smooth-stepping Kanda kicks off with the lively “Sentiment” and keeps the groove going on “Rose Rose” and “Lokumu.” A lilting zouk-tinged “Yahve” and “One More Time” slow the pace a bit without sacrificing energy, while the closing “Amani” pays tribute both to Kanda’s childhood sweetheart and the rumba sounds he heard in his youth. The only drawbacks: a sluggish “My Life,” and the fact that this seven-track disc clocks in at a mere 35 minutes— barely enough time to work up a sweat dancing to those sweet soukous sounds.