Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Tshala Muana

  • Soukous Siren [Shanachie, 1991] A-
  • Mutuashi [Sterns, 1996] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Soukous Siren [Shanachie, 1991]
A showbiz kid who broke in as a dancer, she followed a few late-'70s hits from Kinshasa to Abidjan and then Paris, where she cut her debut album in 1984. Truth to tell, her voice isn't a lot stronger than Paula Abdul's. But her music sure is, and though she does consult her arranger, hers he is--if the songwriting on this best-of doesn't prove her the most conceptually accomplished female musician in Africa, it certainly shows a hell of an ear. Varied and consistent. Catchy and uplifting. Pretty great. A-

Mutuashi [Sterns, 1996]
Out of shrewdness or raw adaptability, this spectacular dancer and savvy singer knows how to find music that does her songs proud. Here she entrusts her Luba soukous to Sahel-salsa masterminds Ibrahim Sylla and Boncana Maiga for a modernization that altogether avoids Euroschlock. Coros and montunos dominate a groove that's cut with West African instrumentation and interrupted by soft ballads, with the standard Zairean guitar peals deployed so economically that when she breaks out a Pepe Kalle cover on the next-to-last cut, it's ecstasy. Pan-Africanism in action. Merry Whatever. A-