Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca: São Salvador
(c) Mopiato Music 2000, (p) Putumayo World Music 2000 (PUTU 158-2 / ISBN 188526560-3)
CD-Review by Rob Lücking
After two years of seemingly endless waiting, Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca are back! And my first impression of the new CD SÃO SALVADOR, released in February and, since April, also available in Germany, corresponds exactly to what Georges Collinet (Afropop Worldwide) comments in the booklet: "Wow!" Or in Lingala: "Mama na ngai!"
To say it first: SÃO SALVADOR is not for salsa purists. Framed by son and soukous as their basic elements, Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca play, more than in their preceeding productions TATA MASAMBA and MAMBO YO YO, with the most diverse rhythms, including Afrikan rumba, merengue, bomba, balad, and even rap and funk.
But before anything else, salseros will get their money's worth, since the CD leads off with a hot son piece (98 bpm). Le Rendez-Vous continues the style of Mambo Yo Yo, title song of the preceeding album. Ricardo laments the capriciousness of this world's women: "Te estuve esperando y me dejastes plantado..." (but this could happen to a woman, too, couldn't it?). Again, the second mambo section takes off with a brilliant flauta solo performed by "Niño" Jesús, while in the background, the Congolese electric guitar, together with the lyrics in Lingala, gives the song the unmistakable African touch. By the way, the guitar is played by Bopol Mansiamina, outstanding artist in the African music scene and, besides Ricardo Lemvo and "Niño" Jesús Alejandro Perez, one of the creative forces behind this production. Boom Boom Tarará, on the other hand, is for the lovers of African soukous and anyone who likes dancing: a happy party song, mixed up with a little bit of Dominican merengue und Puerto Rican bomba (difficult to detect even for well-trained musical ears).
With son and soukous, Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca lay down the frame of their musical repertoire. From now on, styles are mixed up, graphically accentuated by different colours on the back cover: yellow, green, red (pure coincidence according to Ricardo!). Like Le Rendez-Vous, Ave María (Por Dios) is a song about a woman that "... made a lot of promises and disappointed me." (Ricardo Lemvo). Beginning as a Congolese rumba, this piece develops into a swinging and well-dancable son, with even a short section of rhythmically complex merengue inbetween. The two following songs reveal the deep relationship of Ricardo Lemvo with his African home. São Salvador starts off with a guitar intro that reminds one of Bobby Valentin's Despues Me Matas. But instead of salsa dura, São Salvador is a great ballad that tells the story of the ancient kingdom of the Congo and its female hero Beatríz Kimpa Vita, a sort of Congolese Jeanne de Arc. 500 years ago, the kingdom comprised today's Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, with the capital Mbanza Kongo (later known as São Salvador). With the Portuguese influence, the rules imposed by the Catholic church, and the slave trade with South America, the kingdom eventually went down, and Beatríz was burned at the stake. The use of the accordeon emphasizes the wonderful atmosphere of this song, which strongly contrasts with Si Tu No Sabes (No Te Metas), a powerful blend of soukous and merengue, and homage to the tradition of santería and its influence in Afro-Cuban music: "Do not disrespect my saint, dear friend, I beg You. The drum is my religion. If you don't understand, please, don't get involved!".
Up to then, everything is literally in the "green area" (at least for those who know Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca). But then the group surprises again: Be aware of "red"! Nganga Kisi is the medicine man, and Ricardo happily outs himself as a rapper, in Lingala, Spanish, English. As pointed out above, nothing for salsa purists, but a great piece giving a special touch to this CD (as if it were necessary!). In Dans La Forêt, a unique acapella accompanied only by Bopols guitar, Ricardo brings the African jungle to life, with all its secret and mystic sounds (I recommend reading the book NO MERCY: A JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE CONGO, by Redmond O'Hanlon, ISBN: 0679737324, and you will see what he means ...). The jungle is not empty, everything relates to something, and like the origin of man lies in Africa, the music of Ricardo Lemvo comes from various influences: a bit of Johnny Pacheco here, a bit of Sam Mangwana there, "... and without even knowing I create my songs."
The two last pieces ("yellow") bring us back to the son. Capullito De Alelí is one of the innumerable Cuban classics, recovered by Makina Loca but without the surprising elements that characterize most other songs of the group. Finally, Te Traigo Un Son ends up the CD like it began: with well-dancable salsa in the tradition of Tata Masamba.
And then, another surprise: the CD continues! Although the back cover indicates only nine songs, my player is on no. 10! After wondering and searching around, one finds the solution on the inside cover: almost invisible, it indicates a title no. 10, Zozo Motema, as a "ghost track". A nice idea indeed! However, this encore for the lovers of slow Congolese rumba is only found on the European and African release.
A few critics may be allowed. Firstly, several pieces are faded out, and this does not fit well with Afro-Cuban music. Secondly, the very informative booklet contains only the lyrics for tracks 1, 2, 4 and 5. And it would be interesting to fully understand what Ricardo has to say in Nganga Kisi. But these very minor shortcomings do by no means disturb the absolutely positive impression of this new production.
More about Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca can be found on the web pages www.makinaloca.com or www.ritmoartists.com/Lemvo/lemvo.htm, or take a look into one of the next editions of the German salsa magazine Bamboleo. The new release SÃO SALVADOR is available in many CD shops in Germany and also through the internet.
|Text: Copyright 2000
Layout: Copyright 2000 Klaus Reiter (email@example.com). Last update: 21.5.2000.