Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the Rumba River DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Tribute to Legendary Congolese Musician Comes to DVD

Born in 1925, Antoine Kolosoy divided his youth between boxing and playing the guitar, and roaming up and down the Congo River on his ramshackle raft. He acquired the nickname Wendo while developing a loyal musical following, despite having his songs banned by the Church and the Belgian bureaucrats who had colonized his homeland.
The Establishment’s fear was that his tunes might contain secret messages intended to foment civil unrest, since the lyrics were in his native Lingala. But Wendo’s verses were actually apolitical, and after his first album was recorded and released in 1948, he became the Congo’s first Rumba superstar, performing in and around Kinshasa with his band. He went on to find fame both as a professional boxer and as a musician, though the latter career would prove to be more enduring.
It would even survive the blighted nation’s decades of post independence suffering marked by poverty and civil war, during which Wendo’s brand of Rumba would serve to sustain the spirits of the people. Ultimately, the venerable cultural icon did fall on hard times, and was temporarily reduced to begging for tips until mounting a successful comeback in the 1990s.
On the Rumba River, a retrospective directed by Jacques Sarasin (I’ll Sing for You), is an endearing mix of reminiscences and impromptu concerts by Wendo and some of his former sidemen, all of whom are by now senior citizens up there in years. Plus, the picture features plenty of compelling cinematography guaranteed to give the uninformed a good idea of what life might be like in a land where over four million souls have perished in a neverending cycles of exploitation and ethnic cleansing.
An overdue tribute to some talented geezers which might as well be called The Kinshasa Social Club, if you get my drift.

Very Good (3 stars)
In Lingala with subtitles.
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio: First Run Features
DVD Extras: Music tracks, photo gallery, biographies and original theatrical trailer.

To see a trailer for On the Rumba River, visit:

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