The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Me­lanie L’Orchestre Afrisa In­ter­na­tional Colo­mo­tion Records Back in the late 1980s, in the wake of Paul Si­mon’s gen­u­flec­tion to Sowe­tan town­ship jive in the ground­break­ing Grace­land, an­other wave of hyp­notic African rhythm se­duced in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences — souk­ous, an ir­re­sistible Con­golese dance groove pred­i­cated on rumba. Pro­pelled by spi­ralling elec­tric gui­tars and soar­ing singers, bub­bly bass, soul­ful brass and Cuban-styled per­cus­sion, souk­ous be­came a de­fault tem­plate for mod­ern pan-African pop. Apart from Franco’s OK Jazz, no band from the coun­try for­merly known as Bel­gian Congo and Zaire was more suc­cess­ful or in­flu­en­tial than Tabu Ley’s Afrisa and no singer more revered than its front­man. Be­fore Ley died in 2013, his friend and band­mate, sax­o­phon­ist Modero Mekanisi, vowed to re­vive the legacy of Con­golese souk­ous by re­unit­ing L’Orchestre Afrisa In­ter­na­tional. The up­shot is Me­lanie, their first bona fide re­lease for 20 years and an al­bum that fea­tures all-new record­ings of rare and clas­sic songs from Afrisa’s reper­toire as rein­ter­preted by many of the band’s orig­i­nal play­ers. Hav­ing three ex­cel­lent singers, each with a dis­tinc­tive style, means there’s com­mend­able va­ri­ety in the lead vo­cals and some spec­tac­u­lar har­mony singing. The band’s twin gui­tarists are busy through­out. Syn­co­pated horns em­bel­lish spar­ingly, with sev­eral less fre­netic num­bers mid-set fa­cil­i­tat­ing fine tenor sax so­los. The im­pro­vi­sa­tional as­pect of the band’s all-round mu­si­cian­ship is im­plicit in 11 jam-like pieces, the ma­jor­ity of which span be­yond eight min­utes in du­ra­tion.

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