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Thu Zahina
'Coup De Chapeau' (RETRO14CD)

Thu Zahina
Thu Zahina, pioneers of new wave rumba

In the late 1960s a new wave swept over Kinshasa's music scene which went on to flood the whole of Africa with the style of guitar music now known as soukous.

Between the era of the great orchestras led by Franco and Tabu Ley and the Zaiko Langa Langa generation existed a pivotal group whose influence is legendary, yet whose pioneering work has hardly ever been available outside Zaire.

Thu-Zahina were the group responsible for that upsurge, and here are some of their outstanding hits, selected by Gege Yoka Mangaya, stalwart bass player, composer and arranger, who later played guitar with both OK Jazz and Zaiko. Here is the missing link between the classic and the new rumba. This is rumba on the cusp, as the stately big-band style is infiltrated by the raw groove of folk and funk before being overwhelmed by orgiastic solo guitar licks.

The sound of the new wave breaking out can be heard clearly in the unleashed wizardry of solo guitarist Roxy Thsampaka, who eventually took his characteristic string play to Zaiko and Choc Stars. Surplanting Roxy on later tracks is Thierry Mantuika.

Drummer Zicozaco, delighting in the rattle of his un-clamped snare drum, powered them through a host of rhythms, while the singers Abeli Kelly, Denis and Bruno Bonyome, Biluala Hendryx, Juslin, Dezzy, Frank and the others pioneered vocal styles and harmonic arrangements that presaged the new wave. Supporting them were Robot, Goby, Mukuna, Crusoe and a dozen more.

Comprised of college students aged between 17 and 19, Thu-Zahina made their debut in 1968, giving them two years' headstart on Zaiko. Their mentors were a group of older university students who were studying in Belgium and had formed a recreational band called Los Nickelos in 1966.

The Congo-Zairean rumba culture was based firmly on the two strands evolved by Franco on one hand and Kabasele/Rochereau on the other. As a professed 'internationaliser' Tabu Ley Rochereau had a great influence on the more progressive youth, while Franco's rehabilitation of Congo folklore inspired them to re-visit some of the most powerful rhythms on earth.

Add to these ingredients the instrumentation and dynamic presentation of American rhythm and blues and the wildest excesses of Western rock, with the cosmopolitan influence of Los Nickelos and the result is a refreshingly raw and energetic sound.

Tabu Ley actively supported the young musicians and was present at their debut show in 1968. Two years later, as the top youth band in Kinshasa, Thu-Zahina helped to launch the career of Zaiko Langa Langa. Later they came under the wing of Franco, whose patronage was eventually to consume the band.

In the six years of their existence Thu-Zahina instigated a total revolution in the most exciting genre of African popular music.

Thu Zahina
'Coup De Chapeau' (RETRO14CD)


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