Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca




When soukous, the coolly percolating dance music also known as Congolese rumba, blossomed in what's now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s, it was a homecoming of sorts. The Cuban recordings that flooded the country during and after World War II led to an ingenious adaptation of son's hypnotic piano patterns for the electric guitar--a reclamation of rhythmic ideas that had originated in Africa. As soukous has seduced listeners worldwide over the years, its connection with the Caribbean has remained tight--a variant of it, called zouk, has even evolved back in the islands. So when Congo native Ricardo Lemvo moved to Los Angeles with his father, at age 12, he was already familiar with Latin music as well as soukous. LA's huge population of immigrants from south of the border further fostered his appreciation for it (he has fronted the occasional mariachi band), and salsa in particular dominates his new Mambo Yo Yo (Putamayo). But the marriage of African and Latin is still what makes it stand out: the propulsive salsa rhythms and lockstep piano parts are uniquely complemented by soukous's stuttered beats and liquid guitar lines, and Lemvo sings in a mix of Spanish and Congolese languages like Kikongo and Lingala. His sharp eight-piece band, Makina Loca, is a similarly cosmopolitan mix of Africans, Euros, and Latinos. Monday, 8:30 PM, at the African Festival of the Arts, on the grounds of the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.; 773-955-2787. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Ricardo Lemvo uncredited photo.

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