Toto Bona Lokua: Bondeko

March 27, 2018

Good Vibrations

Listening Post 143. Bondeko, the work of three prodigiously gifted artists who mix voices and compositions to produce a dreamy, multi-layered sound, is a transcendent microcosm of the musical diversity of Africa and its Diaspora. The singer-songwriters—Gérald Toto (Paris-born guitarist/musical director with roots in Martinique), Richard Bona (Cameroonian bassist, who commutes between Paris and New York) and Lokua Kanza (Congolese guitarist based in Paris)—first united for an album in 2004, then went on with their illustrious individual careers. The stars have now realigned for a triumphant second act, yielding alternating solos and mellow harmonies that float above adroitly light instrumentation, mostly defying genre but carrying subtle patterns of folk, jazz, rumba and samba. The trio embodies musical chemistry; they sing of happiness, love’s facets and fraternity (Bondeko means “friendship”) in their respective first languages—Creole, Lingala and Douala—and in an imaginary tongue that blends real words with onomatopoeia and vocalized expressions of emotion. Toto’s Ma Mama honors lifetime love, viewing a wife as creator, nurturer and family linchpin (video 1). Lokua’s Naleki is a love/breakup song focusing on the best rather than worst moments of a past relationship (video 2a/b). M’aa Kiana is Bona’s touching tribute to his ailing mother, who was in the studio for the album’s recording and passed away shortly after (video 3a/b). Woman as the source of life is the theme of Youwilé, one of the tracks sung in the group’s invented language; Tann Tanbou A celebrates the universality of the drum across cultures; while Bukavu expresses love of a hometown ravaged by war. Harmony happens when separate voices mix elegantly as the personalities behind them remain independent. For a world with too much division, Toto Bona Lokua delivers cultural collisions that burst in joy, a confluence of shared values that resonates on a global scale. (Nø Førmat!)


Video 1, Ma Mama


Video 2a (teaser), Naleki


Video 2b, Naleki, accessible in North America, Australia/New Zealand, Russia and Western Europe (except France)


Video 3a (teaser), M’aa Kiana


Video 3b, M’aa Kiana, accessible in North America, Australia/New Zealand, Russia and Western Europe (except France)


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