Kahanga Dekula, nicknamed ‘Vumbi’, is a Congolese guitarist who has been playing with a range of other artists such as Makonde Band and Orchestra Maquis for more than forty years and has, only now, got round to releasing his first solo album Congo Guitar. Dekula now lives in Sweden and the album came about when Swedish producer, and long time fan, Karl-Jonas Winqvist had wanted to hear Dekula’s guitar playing away from a big band. That led to the album Opika with Dekula’s own band but Winqvist wanted to strip this back even more and says “Vumbi’s guitar playing is like an orchestra on its own. And the idea of just concentrating on all the amazing riffs and beautiful, uplifting melodies was just so appealing”.
Winqvist was not wrong, and what he has captured on this album is the gentle susurration of Dekula’s gently hypnotic playing style which cascades along like a river. With the simple additions of a second guitar line, some beautiful placed wordless backing vocals and the occasional use of banjo, drum machine and a splash of piano, Congo Guitar is like the joy of summer countryside after sweltering in the city.
The ease of listening to Dekula’s playing belies the incredible dexterity it takes to play with such precision as well as being able to perform incredible runs up the fret board and high glissando trills. The effect of his playing creates a weightlessness that makes it seem more like Dekula is releasing bubbles from a machine not notes from a guitar.
This is optimistic music which instantly perks you up, like the thrill you get from hearing an ice cream van coming or the peel of church bells off in the distance. It’s hard not to nod your head along with the bouncing rhythms and the music’s persistent cheerfulness makes everything feel a little warmer and more joyful.
Released on Hive Mind Records.
Review by Paul F Cook