There's new action on the Congo music front, some of it in a decidedly experimental direction: Here are four acts to watch. Start with Montreal-based singer/bandleader Pierre Kwenders with a genre-bending salute to the late iconic singer Papa Wemba, and a sweeter number featuring vocalist anaiis from this eclectic artist. Both tracks are available on Kwenders' recently released album José Louis and the Paradox of Love (Arts & Crafts).
Guitarist and singer Jason Tamba has been a mainstay in the globe-trotting productions by our friends at Playing for Change. "Gethsemane" is the second single from Tamba's debut album Don't Give Up, an intimate, acoustic set of deeply heartfelt songs. This one, sung in Tamba's native language of Kikongo, "speaks of the last words of Jesus at Mount Gethsemane where he warns of being aware of those who you surround yourself with." Tamba goes on to explain about the song--"The message is: choose your friends wisely!"
Apollo Kris, who played with Awilo Longomba, Alicios, Seckou Keita and Carlou D; and José Pereelanga, who sang with Zaïko Langa Langa, Papa Wemba and Madilu System; are a Sweden-based duo who keep the sound and spirit of classic Congolese soukous alive and kicking. Their most recent single, "Ngangu," is a marriage between Congolese rumba and West African rhythms. Here's a 2021 video of "Tambula Malembe" that shows the guys in full-swing action.
The Congotronics phenomenon has grown and blossomed since the flagship release by Konono No.1 in 2004. Wonderful albums by that group and Kasai All Stars and more have followed over the years. The latest development is Congotronics International, a global collaboration culminating in their just-released debut album, Where's the One.
Here are two videos, one introducing the act, and one telling the story, and explaining that album title and its reference to the struggles Western musicians often have getting inside deep African rhythms like those heard from Congotronics artists.