GERALD TOTO – RICHARD BONA – LOKUA KANZA / “Lisanga”
“The "No Format" project sprang more from a desire to play together, have fun together and learn stuff from each other and be a bit spontaneous about things.” – Richard Bona, RFI Musique “I see this album as a dish cooked up by three different chefs, each busy adding a touch of garlic, a pinch of salt and a bit of spice and color. The result is like a nice collective cake, but a plain simple one without any kind of pretension!” – Lokua Kanza “What we were trying to do was step outside the reassuring structure of language and let out emotion and share that emotion with others through the music.” – Gerald Toto RFIMusique.comDecember, 2004. Gerald Toto, Richard Bona and Lokua Kanza get together in a Paris studio, brought there by French producer Laurent Bizot. There had been no elaborate pre-planning, indeed, there had been no pre-planning at all except for setting a time to get together. Vocalist/songwriter Gerald Toto is from Martinique. His sensibility is natively New World. He grew up in two worlds and is comfortable mixing different elements. He is as comfortable with a doo wop as he is with a Central African yodel. Check out his “Help Me” Afro-Caribbean blues moan. Multi-instrumentalist (bass is his main instrument) and accomplished composer/vocalist Richard Bona is the most well known of the trio. Bona is from Cameroon. Whereas Toto is more on the popular side of Western music, Bona is a bona fide jazz musician whom some critics have dubbed the African Jaco Pastorious. Check him on “Seven Beats.” Keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist/composer Lokua Kanza is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Widely hailed for his use of traditional rural elements in his music he has been recording since 1993 and is widely admired for his multi-lingual singing. Immediately one hears how sweet these guys sound. Of course, Bobby McFerrin comes to mind as a reference but the reality is that this trio is drawing on the traditional folk sources which are the roots of what McFerrin does so well. Even though rhythm-rich, this is gentle music, warm music with beautiful three-part harmony expressed in French, Lingala, English, Creole and probably two or three other languages I didn’t catch. I like how they improvise collectively. How their voices link and soar, pulse and insinuate like an aural caress. They hum, they moan, they ooohhh and aaahhh, making music out of cornucopia of sounds. Toto - Bona - Lokua is an absolutely beautiful achievement especially when one considers it was the serendipitous result of three guys getting together on the fly to collectively make music. —Kalamu ya Salaam I've heard this trio I've heard this trio before. The world music label Putumayo selected their tune "Lisanga" for a compilation called Music From The Chocolate Lands. It's a gorgeous, hypnotic song. I didn't know they had an entire album. And even if I had known they'd recorded an entire album, I probably wouldn't have thought it'd sound this good all the way through. I like all of these selections, but my favorites are probably "Lisanga" (the first song I heard) and "Help Me" (probably because I can understand the words). BTW, Lokua Kanza is a guest vocalist on "Raison D'être C'est De L'amour," a song by a young female singer named Morley. No real point, just that I found it funny that I'd never actively heard of this guy yet had two songs he's featured on that I really like. —Mtume ya Salaam
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