Verckys et I´Orchestre Vévé ‘ Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969​-​1978’ (Analog Africa) 5/5

verckys-et-iorchestre-veveThe historical antecedents of Congolese rumba have been chronicled in the last couples of decades, but one name has largely escaped attention save for a few connoisseurs and that name is Verckys. He started off as a member of Franco’s band, but then split to form his own brand of Congolese music while taking on board external influences, both from countries on the African continent and further afield. These take in Nigerian Afrobeat, |Latin rhythms and James Brown style funk styles. What comes across here immediately are the sweet as honey lead and background harmony vocals and these are used to devastating effect on the first half of ‘Nakobola Yo Denise’ with a sudden shift of tempo and thereafter the number is transformed into a grittier and altogether funkier piece. Traditional rumba is in evidence on songs such as ‘Sisa Motema’ which again begins in a laid back manner, then takes off into an extended guitar-riff driven piece with wailing saxophone. The formula is repeated on ‘Zonga Vonvon’. Arguably the strongest of the traditional numbers is the intoxicating nine and three-quarter minute guitar solo workout on ‘Ya Nini’ while a more rustic and raw groove is conjured up on the brassy instrumental ‘Talali Talala’ with a highly toxic rhythm guitar hinting strongly at the influence of one James Brown. Elsewhere, a less frenetic take on Nigerian Afrobeat can be heard on the compilation’s opening number, ‘Bassala Hot’, with clipped guitar and brass ensemble work. A heavy funk atmosphere permeates ‘Cheka Sana’ with extended saxophone solo while an African take on the blues emerges on the rustic sounding, complete with eerie organ, on ‘Sex Vévé’. If this is a very welcome introduction to the work of Verckys and his orchestra, a larger anthology of the band is definitely in order at some stage.

Tim Stenhouse