Boboto (good manners – peace)
To listen to Ballou Canta is to plunge into an authentic Africa!
“François Ballou “Canta” has been a long-time hidden treasure. The uninitiated discover him today alongside with Ray Lema, as master singer of the ball of magic Africa, or as Black Bazar’s black eminence. However, this voice that served so well the rumba in his country, before spicing up the soukous years of Paris, that voice is like those birds which fool borders and skim through the quiet morning over the tumbling waters of the Congo River. Delicate, agile and meandering… Yes – because voices travel just like ships. They fill up with tunes and rhythms, colors and sounds of the crossed countries. From Cape Verde to both Congo, from Europe to the West Indies via South Africa, the singing and music of this Boboto tell the story of Ballou Canta’s journeys. His life, here and there.” Vladimir Cagnolari (France Inter – radio)
This singer and songwriter native of Congo-Brazaville, where he started music at an early age, is settled in Paris since the 1980s. That’s where he built a career as a chorus-singer (with Papa Wemba, Manu Dibango, Ray Lema, Lokua Kanza, Oliver N’Goma…) ; and also as a lead singer, with six albums in the so joyous style of soukous, and especially in the masterful Congolese rumba, of which it is said that he is “the golden voice”! He is also lead singer in the France Inter band [“the Ball of Magic Africa”], in the Black Bazar, which is borne by the writer Alain Mabanckou, and he has recently released a remarkable three-voice album, “Nzimbu”, alongside Ray Lema and Fredy Massamba.
A stunning bridge to Martinique
It is with the pianist from Martinique Hervé Celcal – recently greeted for his “Bel air for piano”, a brilliantly novel bèlè jazz album – that Ballou wanted to work for this solo comeback.
Here we are talking about touching history, taking up with those of the African people that were torn away from their land long ago, and building a bridge between the Antilles and the African continent.
Both musicians have known each other for 15 years. Ballou knew that Hervé celcal would write an album where the singer, who’s used to putting himself at the others’ disposal, could at last use his voice in its full emotional register.
Etiquette and living together
“Boboto” means good manners, living together, peace. The album consists of 11 original titles, through which Ballou Canta, as a mature artist, recalls what concerns him, in a philosophy of peace. His words are as powerful in Lingala as in Bambara, Pular, Vili, Munukutuba, Kikongo or even Creole. Hervé Celcal’s extremely refined arrangements draw from the colors of jazz, or even the energy of rock, as in pure traditional music.
A rather acoustic orchestration serves Ballou’s voice in tones remaining unexplored.
Style-wise, the uninitiated will thus discover the modern Congolese rumba and the soukous ; one shall witness the meeting of Martinique’s bèlè (of African heritage) and Congolese rhythms. You will feel like being somewhere in Cape Verde, out in Brazil or South Africa, before the trance of the drums and polyphonies that belong to Ballou Canta’s tribe.