African music has gradually shifted in the last two decades from its long-established roots to contemporary styles that retain some of the distinct rhythms of the continent while embracing global influences.
While rumba and its different variants was the dominant music in Africa since the 1960s, the current generation of artists is producing a diversity of sounds that reflects the dynamic global trends.
Afrobeats, for instance, a sound that combines African music with hip-hop, R&B, Dancehall, house and electronic music has made Nigerian performers like Wizkid and Davido into international stars.
Even some of the current crop of Congolese artists have transformed their traditional rumba style by pushing their music to the mainstream and incorporating eclectic modern influences.
No one better exemplifies this trend than Fally Ipupa, arguably the biggest name in Congolese music at the moment, who is the headline act at this weekend’s Koroga Festival.
Fally came to prominence as a protégé of his compatriot Koffi Olomide in the band Quartier Latin from 1999 to 2006.
The Kinshasa-born singer, songwriter and guitarist who turns 40 in December this year has won a host of awards including Best Francophone Artist at the 2010 MTV Africa Music Awards and Best African Artist at the 2013 Trace Urban Music Awards.
Just like other flamboyant Congolese performers, Fally too is known by many stage names including ‘DiCaprio’, ‘King Arthur’, King Hustler, the ‘Golden Child of Congo’ and has recently started calling himself ‘The Greatest’ ( after watching the recent boxing fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in Las Vegas).
His long-awaited performance in Nairobi will be an opportunity to play some of his dance favourites like “Original” and to give fans a chance to hear music from his fourth and latest album “Tokooos” released in July this year.
His sweet vocals and the exciting stage routine with dancing troupe will be the highlight of the 19th edition of the Koroga Festival at the Carnivore Grounds this Sunday.
While his first three solo albums were released on the French based African music company, Obouo Music, this is Ipupa’s first album with a major international label, Elektra France, affiliated to Warner Music France.
The sound combines traditional Congolese styles of rumba and soukous with elements of R&B and hip-hop.
The concert also features performances by Dan “Chizi” Aceda and the female vocal trio of Linda who have made a name for themselves with their Swahili renditions of soul music classics.
While Ipupa retained the rumba sound on his first three albums, there were always a few bold exceptions such as when he recorded with U.S R&B singer Olivia on “Chaise Electrique” in 2009.
The new album showcases Ipupa’s versatility with a broad range of cutting edge sounds and collaborations on seven out of the 18 songs on the album.
The most high profile guest artist is U.S R&B superstar R. Kelly whose signature vocals can be heard on the smooth guitar driven song “Nidja.” Nigerian star Wizkid adds some Afrobeats flavor on the catchy “Yakuza”.
Other guest artists include a host of French rappers, including Booba on the track “Kiname” in which Ipupa reminds listeners of his journey from Kinshasa to Paris.
This was the first single released from the album in December 2016 and has hit almost 20 million views on YouTube.
The rapper MHD appears on “Na Lingui Ye’, “Mannequin” features French duo Keblack and Naza, French-Malian singer Aya Nakamora sings on “Bad Boy” and rapper Shay appears on “Guerrier”
Besides the collaborations, the album contains other highlights including the infectious dance grooves of “Ca va Aller”, “Juste une danse” and the traditional Congolese percussion on “Eloko Oyo” Throughout the album, Ipupa distinct voice is in top form as he juggles French, English and Lingala lyrics.
The word ‘tokooos’ loosely translates from Lingala as ‘good vibes’ and this album has a very upbeat feel running through the 18 songs. During an interview on French TV, Ipupa said he wanted this album to be a bridge between Kinshasa and Paris.
“I have done it all in Africa, but I would like to win the French market,” he said.