Paris has been a center of African music longer than there has been an Afropop, and the Franco/Congolese/Cuban group Tshegue has happily claimed its place in the lineage.
In the group’s new video, singer Faty Sy Savenet and producer Nicolas "Dakou" Dacunha side-scroll their way through the City of Light, a sly homage to the 1986 Juliet Binot film Mauvais Sang, but rather than sprinting through an empty neighborhood, Faty is walking through a populated Goutte D’Or, a neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement where many African immigrants have settled.
It’s fitting that Tshegue would show a community in their Paris. The song’s title, “M'Benga Bila,” translates from Lingala to “call the police,” and in a press release, the band stated that, “the threat ‘I’m gonna call the cops!’ for us represents a systematic formula which too often forces the point of rupture between two individuals, the end of a dialogue.” When person-to-person interaction falls apart, the community loses a bit of its power to an external authority.
The music has that modern Congolese cyclical beat but with a stronger hip-hop inflected sensibility than their contemporaries in Kinshasa’s Mbongwana Star, for instance. Sure, you’d have to stop short of counting the group among the rappeurs of the 19th arrondissement, but it’s so clever to have that beat turn into a chant and then back into hand claps before the mbira-sounding synthesizer line carries us out.
Tshegue drops their second EP, Telema, on June 19 on Partisan Records.