As we wrap up 2012, we feature reviews of “CD’s that got away,” a few releases we enjoyed this year but never got to write about or air on the program. I have chosen three from his large category of music, all things you are not likely to have heard elsewhere. All will be posted before New Year’s Eve.
First up, the latest from the studio of one of the best-hidden Congolese musicians in America. Fellyko Tshikala is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, whom I had the honor to work with in “soukous” bands in the early 90s in Boston. Even then it was clear that Tshikala would not be content to recreate the accomplishments of great Congolese musicians he had worked with previously—Diblo Dibala, Franco, and Emeneya, to name a few. Mind you, he was quite capable of doing that, a monster on bass, drums, and guitar, but he was also a huge fan of rock, reggae and more, and a guy interested in making is own mark. Here, working as Sound 7, a duo with American bassist and guitarist John Hanley, Tshikala shows himself a well-rounded versatile songwriter and an accomplished hand in the studio. “One Way Love” channels Bob Marley in an uplifting reggae anthem. “Count On Me” brings slower more romantic, rock-infused reggae, but no less lyrical.
Lyricism and simplicity are key to Tshikala’s aesthetic. The mix is never cluttered with unnecessary ornamentation. Clear, clean vocals—mostly expressing sentiments of true and undying love, and always in English—and strong guitar lines—sometimes clean, sometimes very crunchy—are front and center. There’s a gentle rock ode to New Orleans, and a celebration of the “Working Man,” something Tshikala knows well—he has a day job. Only on the final track, “Show Me Life,” does he return to his Congo music roots full bore with a joyous soukous outro. It’s both worth the wait and that much stronger after hearing all the places this fine musician has been since.