Maturité

© 2006, Kaze Records, Vienna

tracks:

01 - Ukijua

02 - Eyala

03 - Doucement

04 - Gamza

05 - Ma fille qui passe - feat. Lena Conquest

06 - Try before you cry

07 - Save the people

08 - Uta Okenda - feat. Topoke

09 - Rap d'amour

10 - Malaika

11 - Josephine

12 - Couvre-moi

13 - Rhythm of my mouth

14 - Lumumba

15 - Congo Mabele ya somi

16 - Congo Garage track


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Prince Zeka presents with this album 16 songs justifiably grouped under the title "maturité" (which means "maturity"): this music is musically and thematically mature, beautiful, and brings new life to supersaturated ears! It refreshes listening habits, and thus perhaps also preconceptions about "African music". With his distinctive style of "Makoul", which can be most likely be classified within the World Music, Prince Zeka conveys messages of solidarity for Africa.

musicians:

Almaz Alpako, background vocals | Charity Akuma, background vocals | Laurinho Bandeira, vibs and groove| Christian Bauer, acoustic bass and drums programming | Paolo Brazil, keyboards| Crystal Brown, background vocals | Miguel Delanquin, acoustic guitar | Marjorie Etukudu, background vocals | David Garcia, violin | Ann Geraldine, background vocals | Oliver Humer, keyboards | Kris Jefferson, e-bass | Björn Klein, drums | Herfried Knapp, contrabass and e-bass | Réné Kornfeld, cheesy reggae | Helfried Krainer, guitar and programming, e-bass, piano, Congo lead guitar | Christian Laturna, violin, viola, chello, gamba | Guy Ndongala, e-bass and guitar fills | Thomas Notbauer, saxophone | Lilli Pagany, piano | Piotr Seidl, e-guitar | Bastian Stein, trompet | Roby Ster, fretless and e-bass | Alee Thelfa, percussion | Erika Theobald, background vocals | Barnabas Youras, keyboards | Prince Zeka, lead and background vocals, choir arrangement, acoustic, picking & rhythm guitar, percussion, marimba, likembe, mouth rhythm

featuring:
Alamaz Alpako, vocoder voice | Topoke, rap | Crystal Brown, vocals | Cici, vocals | Leena Conquest, vocals | Renata Lakatus, angel voice | Mara Niang, vocals | Rafiq Varind, vocals | Kadero Rai, vocals | Didier Uwayo, vocals

press:

Mondomix

Maturité - by Daniel Brown, march 2007

Now here is a delightful surprise so early in the year. From the outset Prince Zeka has announced that his mission has been to "create modern African music apart from clichés and European expectations". Maturité seems to be a decisive step in this direction. The CD swings gracefully from traditional soukous and samplings from rural Congo, to slamming rap, soul and gentle folk ballads. Yet the road to maturity has been long: it has been 20 years since Zeka started his career in the Bana Wenge college band in Kinshasa, and the experiences he shared in his voyage to the European shores are reflected in most of the 16 songs of this album.

It is quite a challenge to combine Congolese soukous with jazzy skats, gentle soul, acoustic hip hop, Afrobeat and funk. Well, Zeka has thrown down the gauntlet here with what he calls his "makoul" style. "See if you can do better than this," he seems to say with no hint of aggression. The singer effortlessly brings together the multi-layered rhythms of his continent with rich western tones he has picked up in his years in the West. Zeka's linguistic dexterity is also reflected in his compositions, sung in Lingala, English, French and even Arabic. Zeka's opener "Ukijua" will remind listeners of fellow-Congolese crooner Lokua Kanza, before he moves into the jazzier "Eyala" which reflects the soft and rich texture of his voice. Later his singing finds more trenchancy in the denunciations of the iniquities in the world with "Save the People" or the outstanding "Congo Mabele ya Somi". The latter reflects a man who is bewildered by the political realities in a Congo he loves enough to criticise with passion. "Mr. President," he admonishes, "if your agenda is not compatible with the people and if you risk ruining the country, please leave your place to people who can do a better job. My people, please give the elected President and his government enough time to realise their promises." Simple words that underline Zeka's role as a griot whose vision is undiminished from the years in exile. "Since 1989," he writes in his website, I'm struggling for a respectful presentation of the African culture and trying to modernise it, as it has always been the subject of mockery because of its negative presentation".

There are constant changes of pace and style making this an album difficult to pigeonhole. And why should we? Zeka is as much as ease in Afropop songs like "Ma Fille qui Passe" as he is in his truculent vocalese exchanges like "Rhythm of my Mouth" or light rap tunes like "Save my People". The lyrics are also rich in their diversity: there are acoustic love songs (the sweet "Josephine", or "Couvre-moi" an emotional homage to his mother), politically-engaged tunes like the moving homage to "Lumumba", or social pleas exemplified in "Save my People" which defends African migrants who seek a place in the sun.

Admittedly, the moralising can be tiresome at times, and "Try Before You Cry" is an example of cheesy and shallow lyrics. Yet, it should not overshadow Zeka's ability to write with a sincerely caring vision of the world and the people around him. Maturité will hopefully stamp him as an important new voice from central Africa whose music should be heard on mainstream as well as world music channels.