June 24, 2011

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga | Maisha Ni Matamu

ARTIST:  Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga 
TITLE:  Maisha Ni Matamu (Life Is Sweet) 
LABEL:  Virunga 
REVIEW:  Maryland-based Samba Mapangala is held in the highest regard by fans and musicians as one of the classic singers of soukous, the guitar-driven dance music that swept from the Congo to East Africa in the 70s and across the world in the 80s.  Mapangala has been keeping the flame burning with frequent international tours (he played at the Richmond Folk Festival in 2009) and a series of independently-released recordings.  He attracts some of the top players in the business -- guitarists Beniko Popolipo (Zaiko Langa Langa), Huit Kilos (Afrisa International) and Syran Mbenza (Quatre Etoiles) contribute solos and mi-solos; singers Wuta Mayi (Kekele), Ballou Canta (Soukous Stars) and Suzanna Owiyo (a major Kenyan star) add vocals.  This is an excellent addition to the catalog of a man whose recorded output is consistently strong.  The high-energy numbers here are 1 and 4, 2 and 5 are mid-tempo rumba congolaise, 6 is acoustic and 3 is reggae-influenced.  Soukous certainly isn’t the flavor of the week in African music, but for the literally millions of worldwide fans of this music, Samba Mapangala delivers the goods as always. 
TOP TRACKS:    1    2    4 
ALSO RECOMMENDED:   3    5    6    7    8

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