Friday, May 25, 2012

Soukous

Soukous

            Music has become one of the most significant and popular parts of Congolese culture. The unique genre of Congolese popular music goes by many names; Soukous and Rumba Lingala being some of the most popular terms. Here I will use the name Soukous, which is also the term used to describe a kind of dance that goes along with Soukous music. Whatever you call it, it is set apart from the rest because of its unique blend of multiple musical styles and instruments. The dance music incorporates some latin rhythms, as well as jazz and rock influences. It also uses a broad range of instruments from brass horns, various kinds of percussion, voices and multiple guitars.  The guitar, even electric guitar, has become a defining characteristic of Soukous—especially when used in the sebene.  The sebene is a musical bridge where one or two guitarists repeat a musical pattern and another improvises around this pattern.  This technique has been popular in Congolese music for as long as anyone can remember only not with guitars, but with harps, lutes, and xylophones.  Using guitars for this musical bridge has become a signature of Soukous music ("National Geographic") .
Because it is a mix of old classic styles of music and creates a completely new sound, it makes sense that the Congolese associate Soukous music with the very idea of modernity. People of Kinshasa say they and popular Congolese music “grew up together” and consider their relationship with this music inseparable from their idea of what it means to be modern (“Made in Congo”).
Soukous also served a function beyond entertainment and social activity. The music allowed the country to reconstruct a new national identity. Under colonial rule, this musical form which was so unique to the Congolese could be used as form of resistance.  Even though in reality the Congolese are of many different communities and ethnic groups, this unique-to-Congo music connected all Congolese together and allowed them to identify as one community as they worked to eventually overthrow colonial rule (“Rumba Lingala as Colonial Resistance”).
Soukous is a perfect example of Glocalization.  The music takes pieces Latin rumba, American jazz, even a bit of rock and incorporates it into a style that is very unique to the Congo.  Upon hearing Soukous, you would not describe it as rhumba or Jazz or rock, yet the influence of each genre of music are hard to ignore.  Congolese music has transformed these different styles of music into a completely new genre.  I love this because it is an example of how one culture’s adoption of a different culture can lead to new and exciting ways of doing things.
           

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