The stories coming out of my homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo, are mostly sad. They are usually about colonialism, violence and war. But anyone who takes a walk through the streets of Kinshasa will find one thing above all: music.
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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