Music

Nairobi girl in Fally Ipupa’s new album

fally-ipupa

Congolese musician, Faustin Ipupa N'simba popularly known as Fally Ipupa. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • An edgy fusion has been a hallmark of Fally's solo career since he collaborated with US rapper Olivia of the hip hop group G-Unit a decade ago on the hit single “Chaise Electrique.”
  • Along the way, he has performed at international events with other rap artists like Snoop Lion and Eve.
  • What is not in doubt throughout the album is the singer’s vocal prowess, no matter the style or fusion, his exquisite trademark delivery in Lingala and French never disappoints.

Fans of Congolese musician Fally Ipupa will know that his success has come from an ability to experiment, a versatility that often pushes the boundaries of traditional rumba towards a fusion with a range of global influences.

On his new album “Tokooos No 2” a follow-up to the original album of the same title of 2017, the Congolese superstar goes all out to embrace a variety of styles, as he fuses his rumba roots with R&B, Hip Hop, Zouk, and even Afrobeats, no doubt as an acknowledgment of the global impact of the latter, a genre that has been championed around the world by a new generation of African acts.

An edgy fusion has been a hallmark of Fally's solo career since he collaborated with US rapper Olivia of the hip hop group G-Unit a decade ago on the hit single “Chaise Electrique.” Along the way, he has performed at international events with other rap artists like Snoop Lion and Eve.

What is not in doubt throughout the album is the singer’s vocal prowess, no matter the style or fusion, his exquisite trademark delivery in Lingala and French never disappoints.

The album released just before Christmas in December 2020 on the Elektra France label contains 16 tracks that range from high-energy dance grooves to a slower tempo of romantic songs that suit his vocal delivery.

None of the elaborate rumba tracks arrangements that start with an introduction before transitioning to the dance climax (sebene) run for anywhere up to 10 minutes. These are tight productions clocking at just under three minutes per song, in keeping with modern commercial music formats.

The danger is that sometimes, the songs appear rushed and end in an anticlimax, especially on the slower tunes like “Amore.”

Just like his mentor Koffi Olomide, in whose band Quartier Latin, he spent a decade as a singer and songwriter, Fally does not shy from venturing out to experiment with a variety of styles, often at the risk of alienating a conservative fan base. The first “Tokoos” (the new title adds another “o” to the title that is the Lingala word for “something nice or tasty”) album in 2017 enlisted A-list collaborators including R. Kelly, Wizkid, Aya Nakamura, MHD, Keblack and Naza. The album was also accompanied by a highly successful tour of European and African cities, including an electrifying show at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens in August 2018.

Politics is never far from the surface among Congolese musicians and while Fally has not openly aligned himself with any of the country’s political factions, the Paris leg of the Tokoos tour was disrupted by a group of protestors who accused him of supporting the current regime in Kinshasa, led by President Felix Tshisekedi. Just like its predecessor, the new album is packed with collaborations between Fally and a host of guest artistes, mostly young pop and hip-hop acts from France. The album kicks off with the delightful groove of “Milolo” with its catchy chorus before another infectious dance track “Likolo” featuring Ninho a 24-year-old French rapper of Congolese descent. The song’s video has already chalked up more than seven million views on YouTube in just two months.

Another French rapper of Congolese origin Naza appears on the zouk flavoured track “Oza Yanga” and Prince Dadju, whose father was a member of Papa Wemba’s Viva La Musica band, lends his sweet vocals to “Un Coup” one of the best songs on the album.

French singer and songwriter M. Pokora who became popular after participating in the French version of TV talent contest Popstars in 2003 is the guest vocalist on “Juste une Fois” a tune with a sweet guitar rhythm arrangement reminiscent of the very best in Congolese sounds.

The only song that retains much of the traditional values of rumba/soukous is “Animation” complete with percussions and danceable sebene (climax).

Fally Ipupa’s Kenyan fans will be attracted to the song “Nairobi” whose title is a play on words about a girl that he’s in love with and plays with ‘my heart like Monopoly.’

There are slower tempo songs like “8eme merveille” and the romantic “Amore” that allow Fally to express himself without the distraction of intricate electronic instrumentation.