...you'd be entitled to feel a little deflated with Soukous Time’s seven tracks
St.John de-Zilva 2008-08-27
African music aficionados will well be aware that this is Kanda's first album for nearly five years. Expectations may be high. Given the energy and engrossing live performances that audiences have come to expect, his five year hiatus would have probably incubated a host of new ideas in most artists. Unfortunately Kanda keeps to his formula with Soukous time, reemphasizing the brand of music he is credited with introducing to western audiences.
Though the fusion of traditional Congolese rhythms and mainly major led melodies does still work, the lack of invention around the formula which has kept him in brimmed hats and shiny suits is starting to wear thin. The tracks that work most are those that keep the strong combination of plucky guitar riffs and highly syncopated drumming patterns. Opening with Sentiment with its effective double kick snare rhythm you are hoping that the melodic development will match the snappy beat. But he chooses some pretty cheesy keyboard sounds, making the melodies sound even simpler than they are. Tracks like Yahve and One More Time come close to sounding like a pre-programmed preset on a synthesizer from the 90s, and though the vocals do hold up, the sentiment (Tout le monde!) and purpose are no different to vocal pop hooks of the 80s.
Maybe this is the issue. Having successfully emerged as one of Soukous’ main artists in Paris some twenty years ago he seems reluctant to progress and innovate the form. Not that this should be his metier and the rhythmic content of tracks like Rose Rose and Lokuma do Kanda justice, as he keeps to the stronger elements on his palette with extended rhythm parts and pleasing choruses.
The production values on the album are just not potent enough. Indeed some of the drum and trumpet parts could benefit from better equalisation as well as the swampy bass. But maybe that’s part of the attraction...
Yet, if you are an avid fan and have waited half a decade you'd be entitled to feel a little deflated with Soukous Time’s seven tracks, lasting a mere 35 minutes.