Third album from Congolese troubadour. Yearning gentle guitar led poems, simple...
John Armstrong 2002
Unlike his more dancefloor-friendly Congolese compatriots such as Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide, Lokua Kanza's priorities lie firmly in more reflective songwriting and performance. Toyebi Ti, Kanza's third solo album, capitalises on both those talents. What's more, it showcases a remarkable voice that has more in common with Brazilians like Moreno Veloso and Chico Cesar (with whom, coincidentally, he has recorded elsewhere) than with any modern African singer one can think of.
The sixteen offerings here range from serenely soundtracked African village vignettes, such as the title track itself, to celebratory drumming sessions ("Kumisaka Nkolo"). There are yearning, gentle guitar-led poems ("Tika Ngai") and simple, universal love songs. Kanza has an engaging acoustic guitar style and has obviously been listening far and wide. Paul Simon's benign spirit hovers over the rumba "Ndagunka Tshane". Introspective British folk artists like Bert Jansch and Nick Drake come to mind in "Happiness", and there's an almost ragtime jollity in the kids' chorus of"Goodbye".
The record's intimate atmosphere is retained by the imaginative use of sparse instrumentation throughout, and the childrens' voices help there, too. Even the spectacular use of the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra's string section in the title track doesn't rupture the 'fireside troubadour' tranquility that is this singer's hallmark.
Recent well-received concerts - especially a fine performance at London's South Bank - should guarantee a welcome reception for this charming, off-beat collection of songs. Already much in demand as a guest on the records of his peers in his adopted city, Paris, Lokua Kanza has a promising future in the Anglophone world, too.