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SAM MANGWANA

The music of Sam Mangwana, one of the most popular African singers in the world for the last two decades, is one of the nicer by-products of colonialism. Born in 1945 in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to Angolan parents who regularly took him to concerts by touring artists from Cuba, France, Spain, and Italy as well as from around the continent, Mangwana had set his heart on a career in music by the age of 17. His parents, despite their patronage, disapproved; they wanted him to become an economist. So he ran away to join African Fiesta, a band led by legendary singer Tabu Ley Rochereau, lending his own powerful but versatile voice and later serving as musical director. After a decade he quit to join the country's other predominant band, OK Jazz, led by guitarist Franco Luambo Makiadi, and in 1976, after another year with Rochereau, he went solo. Both Rochereau and OK Jazz played soukous, a kind of Congolese rumba that adapted the traditional piano and violin parts of Cuban son for guitar, and as heard on two of his early recordings, Maria Tebbo and Waka Waka (released on a single CD by Stern's a few years ago), when Mangwana split he retained this musical foundation. Over the years, however, he frequently added even more elements, and while some of the subsequent recordings--most made in Paris, where he now lives--are unappealingly slick, they're also extremely musically sophisticated. In addition to singing in Lingala, Kikongo, and Swahili, Mangwana breaks into French, Portuguese, and English, apparently aiming to reach as much of the vast African diaspora as possible. Last year's beautiful, largely acoustic Galo Negro (Putumayo) is his most fluid and seamless synthesis yet. The gently rolling rhythms come from former Portuguese colonies like Angola and Cape Verde as well as Cuba, the sweet accordion lines from Madagascar, and the lovely lead guitar work from Congo, courtesy of former OK Jazz member Papa Noel Nedule Montswet. But to analyze the ingredients is to belittle the dish: Mangwana's soulful croon, which ranges from a pretty falsetto on "Nakupenda" to a more demonstrative wail on "Cara Mabanzo," ties everything together in a rich global feast that's got nothing to do with the awkward "world beat" mixtures you may have heard from the likes of Papa Wemba or Ashwin Batish. Friday, 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. If you're reading this early on Thursday, July 29, you may also be able to catch Mangwana in a free show at the city's Summerdance stage; that's at 7:30 PM in the Spirit of Music Garden, Grant Park, on Michigan between Harrison and Balbo; 312-744-4007. PETER MARGASAK

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