Congo Funk! – Sound Madness From The Shores Of The Mighty Congo River

Songs as mighty as the river that birthed them…

At times, the idea of critiquing Analog Africa’s frequent output seems like a fool’s errand due to the sheer level of excellence in their compilations. Tirelessly researched and beautifully presented, every new release is a cause of celebration for fans of long-lost funky numbers. This time, Samy Ben Redjeb’s label takes us to the Congo, specifically Kinshasha and Brazzaville circa 1969-1982. Collecting some two thousand songs, Analog Africa has whittled these down to the fourteen gems on offer. 

As seen before on these comps, it was the unforgettable influence of The Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, who forever changed so many bands on the continent. The global buzz around Foreman and Ali’s legendary 1974 bout, Rumble in the Jungle, held in Kinshasha, saw dictator Mobutu agree to Zaire 74, a three-day music festival promoted by Don King. With Brown, Bill Withers, as well as local talent like Zaïko Langa Lang on the bill, all eyes were suddenly on the Congo. American funk and amped-up Congolese rumba soon blended into a deliciously entertaining stew – the best of which is captured here.  

The brassy opening explosion of ‘Sungu Lubuka’ by Petelo Vicka et Son Nzaz, a nearly eight-minute cut of groovy excellence, is just the kind of number you’d expect the label to discover. Move on, though, and things get even more interesting and rewarding. Lovers of Zamrock will get a kick out of Abeti Et Les Redoutables’s ‘Musique Tshiluba’ a fuzzed-out mysterious track that feels like it belongs on a long-lost underground spy movie. 

If you need a little magic in your ears, then Tabu Ley Et L’Orchestre Afrisa’s ‘Adeito’ will have you grinning from ear to ear. This melodic earworm is a symphony of rhythms and a song that demands to be on any summertime playlist.  Similarly, G.O. Malebo’s ‘Fiancee Laya’ has pure vibes, beautiful guitar work, and relaxed drums, all of which invoke a carfree Sunday afternoon. Crazy, considering it was recorded while a megalomanic was in power. 

With ‘Congo Funk! – Sound Madness…’ Analog Africa has created a compilation that’s less esoteric than some previous releases and more focused feeling. It’s a fascinating time capsule into not only the artists and studios of the time but the cities themselves and the Congolese spirit as a whole—another must-buy for those who get a kick of uncovering long-lost musical treasures. We await what Samy and crew will drop next with open arms. 

8/10 

Words: Sam Walker-Smart 

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