The album only peaks like this again in a duet with French R&B singer Corneille, but...
Rose Skelton 2005
Lokua Kanza has one of the most exceptional voices of Africa. It has a clarity that rings out, calls you from what you're doing and begs you to sit down and listen.
His last album, released in 2001, was a piece of work that was close to perfect. Toyebi Te brought Lokua's home country of Congo to the listener in powerful and touching songs, spiced with intricate rhythms tapped out on bottles and call-and-response vocals, in his mother tongue of Lingala. With his children speaking amid the melodies and the sound of the rain coming down, it was a genuine work of art. Four years later, Lokua has brought out Plus Vivantwhichprompts me to ask,what has happened to his Africa?
Plus Vivant is a fifteen-track album of guitar introspections; some done in an R&B style ("Le monde est fou"), some haunting acoustic ballads ("Mal a dire"), and some upbeat tracks,which point towards the Congolese style without being overpowering. There's some beautiful piano, some exceptional guitar solos and it's all very pleasant. However, it isn't until track seven, "Laisse moi le temps". that I begin to remember the Lokua of Toyebi Te and I find myself up and moving to this uplifting, finely arranged and rhythmically interesting song. The unknown percussion instrument sounds like something beating against a tin roof, the electric guitar resounds like a smile, and the smooth voice of Lokuapulls the whole thing together.
The album only peaks like this again in a duet with French R&B singer Corneille, but this is quite a collaboration, and their voices do each other justice in the way that others can only dream of. There's also a thirty two second snippet of something magical, "Piololo", that comes in so briefly with its chimes and humming vocals that it's gone before I can say Toyebi Te.
Still, if there are moments when I wonder why Lokua has recorded an album entirely in French, all is redeemed by the sound of his voice. It is as vibrant as ever, allowing me to think of him still as the voice of the African continent.