Kekele at Festival Nuits D’Afrique

In one of the Congolese dialects the word kekele means a vine that is woven into a rope that is used to make bridges. These 9 men (Papa Noel – guitar, Loko Massengo – vocals, Nyomba Mwan'dido – vocals, Wuta Mayi – vocals, Syran Mbenza – guitar, Sungu Debat – percussion, Komba Bellow – drums) are the ropes that construct musical bridges to the world; their music spans the gaps of age, culture, language, or race. They have been the ambassadors of Congolese Rumba throughout the world. Though we associate Rumba with Cuba, as a musical genre it has its roots in the Congo. During the 1960s it was the 'golden age' of Congolese Rumba and these men, who have roughly 200 years of music experience between them, have succeeded in continuing its popularity or in some cases have brought it back from the dead. Kékélé have been so successful that they have played shows worldwide. They have been successful because of the infectious nature of the music, the obvious passion these musicians have for it and the fact that many of them were members of the big Rumba orchestras of the 60s.

Once these guys start playing you cannot resist dancing to their joyous music. The same was true during their show for Nuits D'Afrique at La Tulipe (a great live music venue). Up until they took the stage the area right in front of the stage was almost completely empty. Once Kékélé came on the area was a mass of dancing people and couples. The first song began the dancing and by the second those sitting at the tables at the rear of the room also became participatory by clapping along to the beats. The music this band created became a living breathing entity. This 'supergroup', which came together in 1999, came to Montreal with three vocalists and six musicians (guitarists, accordionist, bassist, drummer, and percussionist). The three vocalists have very different styles and personalities but were all quite good and their choreography and matching jackets were nice. Nyomba has the best voice of the trio. When they play it is effortless and filled with joy. Massengo, who spoke in French, did most of the talking and told the audience that this was their second time in Montreal and the city represented love and friendship for the group. They sang a couple of numbers in French, including "La Vie Continue". They gave everyone much bang for their buck as they played for one hour took a short intermission and came back refreshed for another set.

The group has an undeniable charm which seduced those in attendance and made the evening into a great night of dancing and fun music. Though this band has not reached recognition like a group such as Buena Vista Social Club, they are every bit as talented and fun to listen to.

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