My Favorites (Soukous): “Loi” - Koffi Olomide

Soukous music comes from The Congo and is popular the world over.  It is said to have been influenced by the Cuban Rumba when the Congolese heard the music over Radio Congo Belge in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville).  It is also a blend of Congolese folk music with soul, Caribbean and other Latin styles.

Koffi Olomide came out of Papa Wemba’s (a well-known soukous star) group who was one of the early soukous bands.  Some of the other well-known early founders of soukous are Franco, Sam Mangwana, Tabu ley Rochereau, and Dr. Nico Kasanda.

Back in my days working on my degree in ethnomusicology I listened to a lot of music from the continent of Africa and I came across one song (out of many) that blew my mind.  The band was so incredibly tight and the bass player had so much groove, I had to listen to this track numerous times to really grasp how all of the elements fit together. 

A chorus opens up the track and it reminded me of hearing a choral youth group in South Africa whose voices were so powerful I was left speechless.  This choral introduction has that same strength and I would have loved to hear more of that in the track.

Although a chorus opens up the track, the voices are secondary to the musicianship of the instrumentalists on this recording.  The short staccato singing and low voice accent commentary are similar to James Brown interjecting over his groove tracks.  The guitars, bass and drums are the standouts on this track and they are amazingly cohesive.  They play a variety of hits with such clarity and ease that they feel like they are completing each other’s thoughts. 

The drummer is so fluid and his snare rolls seem to effortlessly catch the hits of the rest of the band. The typical soukous singing guitar soars over the vamp section and provides that lift to the song to take it higher.
For me however the bass player is the standout on this track.  His fills, connecting lines and one note punctuations establish the groove in such a way that you just want to keep dancing all night to this track. 

What I really enjoy as well is that they even have creative sections inside of the vamp section and they keep cycling back to the top so the vamp section doesn’t get too repetitive (although the way they play it, it could go on for days and not get repetitive).

If you need a pick me up during the day this recording will definitely put you in the groove.  Get ready to dance to this one.

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