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Sample Track 1:
"Ba Kristo" from Kekele, Kinavana
Sample Track 2:
"Ponton La Belle" from Kekele, Kinavana
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Kekele, Kinavana
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Kékélé: Rumba Congolese

Monday, July 3, don’t miss the wonderful ensemble Kékélé. When one thinks about roots music, the roots of rumba – from the KiKongo word “nkumba” which means “waist” and refers to a social dance that joins couples at the waist – and salsa, the clock turns back to Congo. Singer Nyboma Mwan’dido explained to students last year at Dartmouth College (2004-5 tour) that as “late as the 1870s, decades after the supposed abolition of the European slave trade, slave ships still ran from the mouth of the Congo River to Matanzas and Havana, which means many Cubans living well into the 20th century were Bantu born in Central Africa.

So of course Cuban music is full of Congolese elements: conga drums and maimbula keyboards, rhythms such as guaguancó and palo, and dances like mambo and rumba. Then in the 1930s with the introduction of radio into the market, Congo was reacquainted with this music enhanced now by Euro-American instruments and a new language, Spanish. Here was their old music repackaged in the modern age. It was like a welcome home.

Kékélé’s latest recording “Kinavana” is a tribute to Gillermo Portabales (b. 1911). He popularized guajira, Cuban country music, in the 1930s. Popular in Congo during this same period, the guitarist’s compositions resonated in the culture of Congolese rumba, a music described as “fundamentally guitar music.” Kinavana comprises 12 Portabales songs; however, instead of Spanish lyrics, Kékélé singers have reinterpreted them in Lingala with social and political relevance to their native Africa.

Decidedly mellow and reflective at times, especially given the presence of Papa Noel (guitar), back with the band after an illness, and Manu Dibango (alto sax), one nevertheless cannot resist the infectious rhythms which pull her from her seat to the dance floor at home, or Monday night at Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Call (510) 238-9200 or

 06/28/06 >> go there
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