Four Stars | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Paris is where the most ambitious Francophone African musicians go to try for international stardom, and it's also where singers Nyboma Mwan Dido and Wuta Mayi, guitarist Syran Mbenza, and bassist Bopol Mansiamina all met in 1983 and teamed up as Les Quatres Etoiles (the Four Stars). All are outstanding Zairean soukous musicians who--after apprenticing with such popular central African recording artists as Franco, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and Dr. Nico--had established themselves as popular recording artists in Africa before moving to Paris. Since they all have thriving solo careers, and Syran is also a member of the formidable soukous band Kass Kass, they're always juggling Four Stars gigs with other commitments. As a result, "Four Stars" sometimes becomes less a band than a concept, with missing members covered by substitutes (many of whom--like singers Jean Papy and Passi Joe and guitarist Ringo Star--are stars in their own right). We're promised that all Four Stars are making this North American tour--but even if only two or three of 'em were coming, you'd still be wise to brace yourself for a first-rate boss-blasting Congolese dance party. Unlike some African musicians who've taken up residence in fast-paced Paris, the Four Stars haven't traded their down-home grit for "cosmopolitan" slickness to any great degree. They just keep pumping out that rich liquid dance pulse that makes people want to shake their little tushies--and they particularly excel at the medium-tempo grinders that serve as showcases for their lush harmony singing. It's perfect music for hailing the arrival of warmer weather. Saturday, Equator Club, 4715 N. Broadway; 728-2411.

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