Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Franco & Rochereau

  • Omona Wapi [Shanachie, 1985] A+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Omona Wapi [Shanachie, 1985]
Individually, they're the great rivals and grand old men of Zairean "rumba" and all that's followed--very roughly (and I mean very), think of them as James Brown and Frank Sinatra. Frankly fat Franco is a guitar-wielding rhythm-master with a sweet, high voice. Rochereau (a/k/a Tabu Ley) a supernal tenor who favors cummerbunds. They've released well over two hundred LPs between them, but fine as the eight or ten I've managed to hear are, not one comes close to this Paris-recorded collaboration (their third, or sixth, or some such number)--one of the few African records in which the singing outshines the rhythms, and the rhythms are gorgeous. Its effortless propulsion and shameless beauty are so unmistakable that two acquaintances, neither a professional, have asked the title after hearing it over the telephone. That's O-M-O-N-A W-A-P-I. A+