246

Papa Wemba: New Morning

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Papa Wemba: New Morning Magic. Hip-swaying, smile-making, life-enhancing, butt-shaking, number one with a mango magic.

Paris-based Papa Wemba, the King of Congolese Rhumba, has been off the recording scene for almost three years, following some moments difficiles, as he puts it in the liner notes. Wemba was jailed for smuggling "illegal immigrants (ie. clan members without visas looking for a new start in life) into France, in the guise of band members.

New Morning is Wemba's first ever live album, recorded in the Parisian club of the same name back in February. It comes with a DVD of the gig, which is even more enjoyable than the spirit-boosting CD. Singing gorgeously arranged versions of some of his best-loved hits of the '90s and early '00s—melodic, irresistibly body-rocking soukous, with a dash of salsa and two dashes of French pop—Wemba fronts an outstanding quintet of young French-African musicians, augmented by two soulful and empathetic European backing singers.

It's somehow quite moving to see two foxy white women singing soukous in Lingala with such evident relish, looking and sounding like they were born to it. It's also immensely pleasing to witness Wemba's quietly authoritative, mesmerizing stage presence again. His performance suggests a slightly more physically demonstrative Muddy Waters when he too was in his fifties. Even at that age, Waters could declare "I'm a man, spelt m-a-n, I be ready for all you women in a moment's time and not look ridiculous. Wemba makes his body talk in the same way, and the life force is similarly infectious. (He also has the style to affect a dignified penitence for the embarrassment he caused his family by being jailed—hence, I suspect, opening the set with 1998's "Excuse Me, sung unaccompanied, and titling and recording the album at New Morning).

Wemba first came to attention in 1970 as a founder member of the seminal Zairean punk-rhumba band, Zaiko Langa Langa. He left after less than a year to form Isife Lokole and, in 1974, Viva La Musica. With all three bands, his wailing high tenor voice cut through decades of cloying Kinshasa close-harmony singing, and with his electric guitar-toting musicians he dragged Congolese rhumba into the modern age.

Wemba's voice today is even more compelling than it was back then. It's still wonderfully rough-edged, but can melt to velvet. It sounds, as you'd expect, altogether more rounded and lived-in now, and has a greater range, moving with assurance between deep tenor and falsetto, and between the declamatory and the intimate. Wemba still punctuates his words with distinctive, guttural exclamations (and, occasionally, bird sounds)—in a way reminiscent of Gregory Isaacs.

New Morning celebrates Papa Wemba's return to the boulevard, sounding as good as he did before those moments difficiles and with the promise of years more magic to come. Download all of it and beam yourself heavenward.

Track Listing: Excuse Me; Ainsi Soit-Il; Bonjour Daddy; Congo Moko; Image; Maria Valencia; Phrase; Sala Keba; Fa Fa Fa; Maman; Au Nombe L'Amour; Yolele; Show Me The Way; Awa Y'Okeyi; Ye Te Oh.

Personnel: Papa Wemba: vocals; Jean M'Ba and Olivier Tchimanga: acoustic guitars; Patrick Bebey: piano; Samba N'Daiye: bass guitar; Denis Tchangou: drums; Isabel Gonzalez and Sophie Parrot: vocals.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Synchronies Music | Style: Latin/World


Shop

More Articles

Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Soul Garden CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Authorized Bang Collection CD/LP/Track Review The Authorized Bang Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Rags And Roots" CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read "Our Second Set" CD/LP/Track Review Our Second Set
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 23, 2016
Read "Hark The Herald" CD/LP/Track Review Hark The Herald
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions" CD/LP/Track Review Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter...
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "Follow Your Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Out Of The Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Out Of The Blue
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!