Charlston Marquis – Komba
From Charlston Marquis – Komba
Self-released, 1987, France

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a Salsa record.

To be precise, I was at a car boot sale and someone who didn’t seem to have any interest in records gave me a pile of records, including a battered Off The Wall and Chic‘s greatest hits. Amongst them, was a South-American record that looked slightly interesting. It turned out to be a highly sought-after Salsa LP.

Anyway, the interesting part is that the record was sought-after because it features one specific song, that is supposed a « killer Salsa tune ». I could tell that the music on this record was good, well recorded, etc. however, to me the stand-out track just sounded like all the other songs… I just don’t have an ear for Salsa music ! I wish I could ear and appreciate any music genre – it just isn’t the case.

And it’s more or less the same with Soukous.

Soukous records are common in Paris, and I took a listen to many of them digging in this city. However, just like Salsa, it seems I don’t have an ear for this genre. I can easily enjoy songs that blends elements of Soukous with other genres – Soukous-rap for example – but I never enjoyed something that I can identify as pure Soukous. Until now.

Charlston Marquis‘ single privately pressed album is the first Soukous record I ever purchased. The overall sound of the record is pleasant to my ears, but it’s the title song that really appeals to me.

There’s something really minimalist and nagging in all the songs – a simple and efficient drum machine pattern, for example – but the major scales on which are based most of the tunes prevent me from fully enjoy them. This is not the case of Komba, whose bitter-sweet melody makes me want to listen to the song over and over again.

Komba might not be a Soukous masterpiece, but to me, it opens onto new musical perspectives and gives me a key to understand a genre I’ve neglected so far.

PAM

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