Tabu Ley Rochereau
The Voice of Lightness: Congo Classics 1961-1977


4.4
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
February 11th, 2014 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist


The Voice of Lightness: Congo Classics 1961-1977 does not need re-evaluating. Lovingly curated by the diligent African division of Sterns Music, this double-disc compilation of early rumba and soukous music by established master Tabu Ley Rochereau peaked twice in exposure: first with rave reviews upon its 2007 release, and then again after the death of its subject late last year. Obituaries from the New York Times and the Chicago Reader indicated that novices would do well to start here; hardened novice that I am, I missed even that boat, and have only now stumbled upon the wonderful music here. But wonderful music, however wide its coverage may be, often seems to mandate some personal expression of its wonderful qualities. The Voice of Lightness is indeed wonderful, and so I must express.

The track that first drew me in was “Pesa Le Tout,” a deeply groovy tune that illustrates the myriad appeals of this compilation. One of these is Rochereau’s voice, a warm and fluid thing of wonder for which he's rightly been idolized. Among the most talented singers in African pop music history, Rochereau knows how to skillfully acclimate that voice to the diverse aesthetic environments provided him by his musicians. On “Pesa Le Tout,” the tone resembles one of celebration; the whole track is sung as if his voice is escaping through a wide grin. Perhaps more striking, however, is the music which urges that voice on, stunning but no less pleasurable for its own depth of feeling and complexity. Bolstered mostly by driving percussion, fizzy snaps of electric guitar, and a perpetual-motion bassline, “Pesa Le Tout” possesses a sonic depth that suggests a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. There’s an ineffable something there, a cohesion of sound and lyric that makes it all immensely gratifying. As Dom Sinacola of Cokemachineglow once wrote, “RIYL: sound”.

The Voice of Lightness is chock full of such gems, whether they come from Rochereau’s ‘50s material with Joseph Kabasele (a.k.a. Le Grand Kallé) as African Jazz or from his knottier ‘70s tracks with Afrisa International. Through it all, Rochereau maintains so impressively his sprightly voice, rhythms, and melodies that his clarity of aesthetic vision could be easily mistaken for homogeneity. But listen closely and the structural intricacies will reveal themselves, especially as the tracks get more jammy and as imported Cuban rumba music gradually solidifies into the specifically Congo soukous for which Rochereau stands as an emblem. Even then, much could be made of the man’s supposed apoliticality in comparison with his feisty rival, Franco Luambo. Some would leave Rochereau in the dust for “Savon Omo,” which at first sounds like yet another delicate, pretty piece of pop, but after some research turns out to be a delicate, pretty piece of advertisement for the Omo laundry soap company. Fair enough. But The Voice of Lightness is an album of musical and not political expression, and that’s as it should be. Such beauty as put forth on this album can start to feel revolutionary in itself. For both seasoned veterans and those like myself, newbies suddenly thrust into the fray, that's something worth cherishing.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


15069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

blurp. decided long enough is long enough. it always feels like i'm re-learning to review for the first time when i get back
in the game, so comments and criticism are welcomed. also, long sentences : )

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


16089 Comments


please use summaries ugh

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


15069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Wait, why?

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


16089 Comments


Because it looks terrible on the front page. It's fine when its not in the staff box or featured but my god does that look horrible right now


robin
Emeritus
February 11th 2014


4259 Comments


john please stop

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


16089 Comments


What am I stopping, it really looks terrible. This is almost an objective fact and not meant in any belittling way.

EaglesBecomeVultures
February 11th 2014


5269 Comments


john

Digging: Dean Blunt - Black Metal

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


3492 Comments


on a scale of 1 to Alex Robertson I'd give this review an Alex Robertson

will read soon, tried that song you posted on FB but it didn't quite hit me immediately. probably just need more exposure to this shit though

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


15069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

"N'daya paradis" is a good starting point too. I understand not being into this tho lol

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2014


3492 Comments


I'm pretty much open to trying anything as long as it doesn't have screamed vocals (and someday even that might not be true) so we'll see what happens

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2014


10362 Comments


I see them .1 increments Dr. Robertson is employing ;]



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