Congo’s traditional Soukous and its resurgence

is a sound that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or should we say feet? This exquisite music genre was responsible for making many Congolese dance decades ago. Its rise and fall in the music industry has sparked curiosity in us, and now we wonder: is Soukous making a comeback?

An overview of Soukous

Soukous is mostly built on a foundation of electric guitars, drums, vocals, and Caribbean-like tunes. It is primarily a dance music genre which is part of the reason it was very appreciated by the African people. In the 1950s, Congolese music artists began to get inspired after listening to Cuban music, this birthed the brand new sound called Soukous.
The sound originates from Zaire which is now known in modern times as the Democratic Republic of Congo. It quickly became a much-loved music genre in countries like France. The genre is as electric as its name ‘Soukous’ which has Latin French origins that translate in English to mean shock and shake. Soukous bears many nicknames around the world. In some parts of Africa (like West Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania), Soukous also goes by other names which include Congo, Lingala, and African Rumba.

  1. :
    Papa Wemba contributed significantly to both African and world music. The icon was part of the Zaiko Langa Langa band until he transitioned later in his career as a solo artist. Papa Wemba stands out from the crowd because of his skill in blending African sounds with western Pop, Rap, and Rock. Nicknamed the king of Rumba Rock, the Soukous artist gave his fans songs like ‘Yolele’, ‘Show Me The Way’, and ‘Rail On’. The star died in 2016 after a music career that was successful except for certain controversies which led to him spending some time in jail.
  2. :
    The renowned music artist has never failed to keep his fans thrilled with good music to date. The Soukous singer’s songs spread throughout much of West Africa including Nigeria. Interestingly, he began his career as a drummer before quitting in 1995 to release his first album ‘Moto Pamba’. Subsequently, he gave his fans other albums like ‘Kafou Kafou’, ‘Mondogo’, ‘Super Man’ and the self-named album ‘Awilo Longonmba’. The award-winning artist’s success was evidenced by his international tours in Europe and Asia, and massive streaming on the global scene. At 60 years, Awilo Longomba has aged gracefully, never ceasing to give us quality hits in the Soukous genre.
  3. :
    Koffi Olomide is a distinguished Soukous singer who has scooped up several awards in his time. Highlights of his legacy include the creation of the Quartier Latin international orchestra, and the release of albums such as ‘Monde Arabe’, ‘Abracadabra’, and ‘Effrakata’. He likes to play around with guitars and percussion while daring to broach several “taboo topics” in his relatively slower style of Soukous music. At 66 years, Olomide stands out as a memorable Soukous artist, unfortunately, allegations of assault and rape were a big blow to his career.

Is Soukous back?

Soukous was very popular decades ago when it started to spread like wildfire to neighbouring countries. The genre was even absorbed by France where the beat was featured on the dance floors of the people. Unfortunately, there was eventually a gradual decline in the popularity of the sound as it no longer enjoyed massive airplay like it did in the past. For a long time, the sound continued to brood silently in the shadows being ignored for a while. However, it seems as if there is a noticeable revival of the Soukous genre after so many years.

The return of Wenge Musica

A notable example of this is the reemergence of Wenge Musica, an iconic Soukous band with a background in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The band’s story of restoration is one of hope both for the Soukous genre and the music industry in general. Wenge Musica used to consistently dish out albums from the early 80s to the late 90s. Just like a lot of other bands in the past, an inevitable separation hit the group after periods of conflict between the leaders. The lack of unity and agreement led to the group splitting with some members of the group going on to sing solo. Despite the half-baked attempt to make things look normal, the fans continued to be disappointed and heartbroken due to the split of their beloved band.

25 years later, much to the delight of the Wenge Musica band fans, the group decided to patch things up and come together to produce music again. The result of this was an explosive concert hosted by the band on June 30 which also happened to be Independence Day for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The concert was a massive success if the 75,000 fans in attendance are anything to go by. The excited fans who witnessed the historic unification of the Wenge Musica band are proof that Africa truly is ready to receive Soukous again.

‘Esopi Yo’

Apart from Wenge Musica, other artists like Awilo Longomba seem to still be waving the Soukous flag high. In 2017, Awilo Longomba did a pleasantly surprising collaboration with the West African Afrobeats Superstar Tiwa Savage. The birth child of the collaboration “Esopi Yo” gave us aesthetically pleasing visuals, a danceable beat, and a contagious choreography while not sacrificing the message which is to say no to fraud and run away from criminal ways of making money. The fact that the music video was star-studded with faces like Davido, Flavour, Techno, and Mohombi tells us that Awilo Longomba is right on track.

Conclusion

After making Africans dance for so long, it was pathetic to see Soukous gradually go down the drain. Thankfully, its resurgence in recent times makes us hopeful that the rich music genre is not completely lost. If anything, the reconciliation of the Wenge Musica band after 25 years is the sign that we have all been waiting for. Soukous, the beloved sound of the Congolese is experiencing a comeback. We are on the cusp of a Soukous revival and we are here for it!

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