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Various Artists: Golden Afrique Vol. 2

Various Artists: Golden Afrique Vol. 2

Release Date:2006

By Michaelangelo Matos | Posted 3/8/2006

It’s not difficult to make a good compilation of Congolese music from the country’s mid-1950s to mid-’80s prime. But whenever someone makes a new one, it’s always a gift. The most recent is one of the best, not least because it’s long. Like its predecessor, which concentrates on West African stuff from a narrower time frame (1971-’83), the second volume of the German label Network’s Golden Afrique series houses two CDs in a long box (with booklet in English and German) and, like Vol. 1, it’s stunning, start to finish.

The sweetly chatty, subliminally propulsive guitars and beats populating Vol. 2 sprung mostly from Franco, the bandleader whose mid-’50s records had roughly the same impact in the Congo that Elvis Presley’s Sun sessions and Chuck Berry’s early Chess sides did in the U.S. Franco helms four cuts here, including the bubbling 12-minute opener “Coopération,” from 1982, sung by Sam Mangwana, who crops up twice more. Franco’s two great rivals—Docteur Nico and Tabu Ley Rochereau—also rightly dominate the track list. But the two best songs are by less well-known artists: Nyboma’s “Doublé-Doublé” manages to sound both slick and homespun, while the thumb-piano-and-percussion ensemble Le Likembé Geant’s “Bika Nzanga” is more effortlessly catchy than anything on last year’s more avant-garde-slanted Konono No. 1 album. Vol. 2 is a pricey import, but if Konono or Fela Kuti are the extent of your African-music knowledge, you’re not going to find many better ways to expand it.

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