Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Koffi Olomide

  • Tcha Tcho [Sterns, 1990] B+
  • Best of Koffi Olomide [Next Music import, 2002] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tcha Tcho [Sterns, 1990]
Floating airy synthesizers on the quietest of Paris-Kinshasa grooves, this Papa Wemba grad is class pop right down to his haircut. A balladeer by soukous standards, he's a rhythm king nevertheless, a cafe au lait Bing Crosby with the stuff to shoot from the hips. But for all its gentle carnality, his seductive one-on-one lacks emotional detail if you don't understand the words. Fluent Francophones will swoon--especially fluent female Francophones. B+

Best of Koffi Olomide [Next Music import, 2002]
Soukous is passť, the Congo is a war zone, and from his old Kinshasa home this brown-eyed handsome egotist has become a pan-African star of the old school. Not that he's "soukous"--with African punctiliousness in the matter of genre names, he calls his music "tcha tcho" and "Congo" and no doubt other things. He's a university graduate whose compositions were being picked up while he was still a student, and you could say he sounds like one--singing with more brain than body, he deploys his breathy baritone for subtlety and leaves the heavy lifting to the hired hands. But what he really sings like is a songwriter, specifically a ballad specialist who cares about sound play and emotional complexity. I have no way of judging how responsibly he's programmed this inexpensive double-CD from his several dozen albums except to report that it includes early and late titles of some renown. I can say that the slower disc is more beautiful than the Olomide Stern's put out in 1990, and that the special remix CD makes room for the animateur-driven seben beats he claims he's too deep for. A good thing, because he isn't. A-