By now, African music aficionados -- all six of you out there in the blogosphere -- have figured out that J. Cole's catchy "Can't get enough" samples the Guinean band Balla et ses Balladins' classic, "Paulette". I enjoy the authenticite music perfected by this now defunct West African group, but I'm most at home with the lingala or soukous genre, which originated in the Congo in the 1930s, and gained dedicated fans in my beloved East Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. A full appreciation for lingala and its nuances -- which are many -- probably requires an awareness of, and perhaps even immersion in, the contexts in which it is rooted and popular, much like a complete understanding of Nollywood flicks demands a critical understanding of their function in Nigerian society and the broader African diaspora. My pre-adolescent self wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world to look and sound and dance like M'bilia Bel, who for me, embodied the almost-ultimate in sophistication, third only to my Aunty Leddi and my mother. I have many a memory of mimicking wholly inappropriately and somewhat -- ok, totally -- poorly the carefully orchestrated gyrations captured in Koffi Olomide's videos. Enthusiast or not, I dare you to watch Kanda Bongo Man perform in front of legions of mesmerized fans in Nairobi and not feel the ever so slight urge to shuffle your feet -- or more -- ever so rhythmically. Well, go'on ahead, give in, gyrate just a little bit -- I won't tell von Schadow.
Kanda Bongo Man