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Sous Sol – Flamme Kapaya

I love the sound of Flamme Kapaya and Sous Sol is a reference for all his work with Werrason, at least as far as I know (I am sure there are many who know way more than I do about Werrason and Kapaya). He definitely knows how to make a solo exciting with continuous rhythmic variations , a massive use of the high register (above the 19th fret), and the ability to juggle all the time with at least two main voices/lines. What I am learning as I try to play Sous Sol is that it really is uncomfortable to play all those parts between the 21st and the 24th frets, especially because often times those are not single notes but dyads, usually 3ds, 4ths or 6ths intervals. I believe that the guitar as it is, is not made for playing in those positions and having to play always at that high pitch I would rather look for another option.
I don't know if there is something like a soprano guitar but I would try getting a baritone 24 fret guitar, usually tuned 1 tone below, and tune it like a regular one with lighter strings. That way you wold have wider frets and no changes in tune. Looking at another video I see that he must be not so comfortable either because he moves the solo quite a bit down the fretboard in a more reasonable position. I will post a video as soon as I am able to play this.

Update: here is the video of part 1

Nico Kasanda - Independance Cha Cha (Kabasele)

Another classic with the characteristic fender sound and arpeggio style of Docteur Nico Kasanda.

I love the song and the solo with the typical slides and arpeggios of the rumba era, not to mention the meaning and memories that come with it.

I did not include the music score and tabs but the solo revolves around a couple of basic chord positions so it should not be difficult to follow. It is all taste and no tricks. Standard I-V-V-I structure, which in the second guitar breaks down further alternating the IV with every chord I-IV-V-IV-V-IV-I-IV.

Dally Kimoko - Embargo

I am posting a new video. It's "Embargo", by Loketo, with Dally Kimoko on the lead guitar (at least that's what I know). (Here is part 2)

He really can squeeze the happiest ringing bells out of the most basic chord positions and this piece can easily prove it.

I like Alain Makaba and his way of playing very close to the chord shapes while keeping everything exciting and fresh but Dally Kimoko is in some way even more simple and effective.

I am now starting to get a better understanding of the different solo styles and so far, based on the solos that I transcribed, I identified three or four main "schools" (albeit this is just a simplification based on a small sample and the differences are not so straigtforward).

1. Chord position playing

Dally Kimoko and Alain Makaba are the main examples. They play mainly the notes of the chords, a kind of rhythmically enhanced arpeggio, sometimes with a little extension to reach a couple of extra intervals but in general very close to the chord shapes. This way they take full advantage of the resonance of the ringing strings and every line is particularly clear and full of harmonics. In this they are not very far from old school rumba players( or from Charlie Christian), for instance Dr Nico Kasanda plays exactly the same way, with different rhythms, different speed and with a sound more fender-oriented but very similar in the key aspects. If you speed up Dr Nico's' solo in "Independance Cha Cha" it would take very little to adapt it to the fastest sebene of the 80s and 90s.

2. Scale-oriented solos

Since the times of early rumba the major diatonic scale played in intervals of sixths is one of the most common sounds in congolese music, that's what americans call "double stops" (or so I understood). In reality that is a sound typical of the guitar tout-court, across every age and style: scales in thirds and sixths are a typical guitar sound and congolese guitar music makes very good use of them. Intervals of thirds, fourths, sixths, octaves and even tenths are very common and all of the soloists use them extensively. One of them though deserves a special mention regarding the use of scales, it's Roxy Tshimpaka. I am planning to transcribe a solo of his from a youtube video and there he really uses almost only scales switching, within the same line, from octaves to thirds and sixths.

3.  Werrason style

In reference to two guitarists, Thierry Mogratana and Flamme Kapaya, who have influenced a whole generation of new guitar players in Congo, at a minimum because if you want to audition for Werrason you have to know their lines. They tend to use the whole bag of tricks and then add some more, playing double stops around the major pentatonic scale, fast sliding legatos, single notes trills and a lot of playing between the 21st and 24th frets. What I like in particular about their style is the way sometimes they intertwine a rhythmic pattern, played much higher (acute) than a traditional 2nd guitar, and a line that usually doubles at unison the singer's melody. It is challenging because forces the player to handle two lines at once and at the same time is the best way to memorize and play long articulate lines and parts typical of those very long generiques.

There would be a fourth school, but the definition is "a little" biased by my personal preference: it is the school that includes only Diblo Dibala, who is still unmatched in my book as far as technique, sound and creativity within the strict limits of a quite canonical style. But that's just my opinion.

The Barbershop Session, finally!

I uploaded a new transcription of one of the great lines played by Kimbangu in the barber shop video.

I have more or less identified where those lines come from but can't point to anything precise yet, mostly because tracking them down by ear among a number of quite long pieces is a tiring and time consuming task. In this case the original should be "Bompikiliki" - a Bill Clinton Kalonji beer-ad song.

My transcriptions are heavily biased toward this artist, partly because he deserves it but mostly because there are excellent videos where he plays live and one can see his hands. it is a good learning opportunity. However, I will try to cover other guitarists next, just to offer a broader and more general view of the state of the art.

Some of you will notice that I am not always including the score and the tabs in the video anymore. If you have any comment just drop a message using the contacts form.