Congo Guitar

20/09/2023Stockholm-Based Congolese Guitarist 'Vumbi' Dekula Releases Resplendent Solo Guitar Album

There is a particular beauty inherent to the distinct stylings of the Congolese guitar, the boleros, rumbas, soukous and similar 'slow music' styles which, despite their laid-back form, have a certain swing to them that is undeniably infectious. When we saw that Brighton's Hive Mind Records was about to drop a release simply titled "Congo Guitar", we had a feeling we were in for a treat. And, having previously familiarised ourselves with the genre via a handful of superb reissues by Belgian imprint Planet Ilunga, we were eager to discover what a more contemporary approach to the tradition might sound like.

Enter Kahanga Dekula, aka Vumbi: "Born with polio in the Kivu province of North Eastern Congo, Vumbi grew up in a Swedish missionary home and picked up the guitar at an early age. Listening intently to the radio, he learned the style and rhythms of Rumba and Soukous from the giants of the Congolese guitar sound, Docteur Nico and Franco," the release notes read. Or as Vumbi describes, "listening and playing Soukous music makes you feel happy to be alive and you just have to dance to it no matter what." After a stint in Tanzania in the '80s, where he was lead guitar for the renowned Orchestra Maquis, Vumbi moved to Sweden in the early '90s and played in several formations before eventually founding The Dekula Band. 

A fan of Vumbi's radiant play – who subsequently released The Dekula Band's debut full-length "Opika" in 2019 – Swedish producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist (Wau Wau Collectif) had the idea to produce a solo album for Vumbi and put his talent center stage. Recorded in just two days during lockdown at Stockholm's Helter Skelter Studios, Vumbi's "Congo Guitar" was recently released on Hive Mind in collaboration with Winqvist's Sing-A-Song Fighter imprint. Showcasing Vumbi's alluring artistry, "Congo Guitar" goes to show just how versatile and multifaceted his sound truly is. Quite literally a one-man orchestra on six strings and with minimal backing, Vumbi answers to the call in a virtuosic display of incessant ingenuity and manifest warmth. 

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom