Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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****1/2

TABU LEY ROCHEREAU
The Voice of Lightness
Sterns Africa

Superb collection from the great singer of soukous, Africa's beguiling guitar pop

From the mid-sixties to the mid-Eighties, Kinshasa-raised Tabu Ley Rochereau was the premier singer in sub-Saharan Africa. His supple, soft-textured tenor defined the Congolese rumba style known as soukous almost as much as the billowy, coruscating guitarists he deployed as a bandleader-arranger, and his songwriting was both melodically inspired and commercially omnivorous. For most American listeners, this superb pre-1977 double CD will introduce not just Rochereau but soukous, which, though it dominated Afropop into the Nineties, has been marketed sporadically here. There are plenty of the multiguitar sebene grooves that soukous fans cried out for, but the set's pervasive pleasure is lovely melodies filigreed with guitar that's delicate and propulsive. The excellent notes make clear that, though Rochereau had plenty of Latin-lover Lothario in him, he sang about many things: pride of race and place, his mother, his mortality, laundry soap if the soap company would pay for it and, on the onomatopoeic "Aon Aon," wah-wah guitar.

Rolling Stone, Nov. 1, 2007