Rumba bars

by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Une Grande Nation (Issue IV/2017)

On every street corner and in every bar, no matter how small, there is a guitar player. They play the Congolese rumba, which is most comparable to jazz. Rumba songs traditionally begin with a story. The singer complains of his suffering and talks through his heartbreak. Then the tempo increases and the guitar plays alone. It is at this point that the audience starts to dance. That’s when things can get pretty out of control, as 80-year-olds start moving like they’re 20.

Once I said I’d like to write how the Congolese rumba sounds. By that I mean, I’d like my books to be wild but also subtle and political. The lyrics always revolve around the situation in this country. Whenever somebody comes to Congo I always advise them: Check out a rumba bar. Because if you understand the rumba, then you understand my homeland. 

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