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Soukous and Highlife

SECTION 1 - West Africa World Beat

1. Soukous and Highlife

In the Congo, Soukous is also referred to as Rumba (not to be confused with Cuban Rhumba, or ballroom Rumba). There are many variants to this rhythm as the basic rhythm tends not to be conformed to for a long time.

I’ve always had difficulty explaining exactly what the differences are between Soukous and Highlife, there is a lot of crossover in the grooves. It is easiest to pay attention to the guitar, because Soukous has a trademark style that has been compared to the Son-Montuno piano style in Afro Cuban music. It is flowing and rhythmic and insistent in its constant presence. It also tends toward the upper-range of the guitar and is often bright to the point of being brittle in sound. Check out anything from Kanda Bongo Man to hear classic soukous.

  Highlife, on the other hand, is a sort of catch-all for a number of musical styles that could best be described as “Pan-African”, because the influences come from everywhere on the continent. While you can certainly use many of the following soukous rhythms in highlife, there is a lot more room for variations in style. You will see a few transcriptions of some of my favorites that I have learned from listening to players like Mohktar Samba, and Brice Wassi. They make the grooves sound as though they are “floating on air”. If you want to check them out, look out for works by Salif Kieta and Baba Maal, just to name a couple of good examples.

Basic Soukous Groove (Congo / Zaire)

soukous basic.jpg (15828 bytes)

 

 Following are some Soukous variations

soukous1st variation.jpg (16102 bytes)

 

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa

soukous and highlife african music congo west africa






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