Let’s dance!

Soukouss Internationale bassist Arvis Mena (left) and the band’s dancers get the party going.

SOUKOUSS International are ripping up a storm with their infectious blend of African song and dance. 

The nine-piece WA band is a multicultural affair with members from countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Congo and Sierra Leone (there’s also a fair dinkum Aussie in there for good measure). 

The band play “soukous” dance music based on the Congolese rumba of the 1960s, but with a higher tempo and longer dance routines. The music became popular in Paris and London in the 1980s. Featuring dancers, infectious bass lines and rampant percussion, Soukouss Internationale’s music gets everyone in the crowd moving. “We like to teach the audience members some moves!” says lead guitarist Jamie Searle.

“Our style is classic soukouss mixed with a bit of modern Afrobeats. We are influenced by Congolese artists like Awilo Longomba, Kanda Bongo Man Extra Musica, Kofi Olomide and Fally Ipupa.

“The band was formed by Quentin Thony (lead vocals) and myself a few years back out of a shared love of Congolese music. “A little later we bought in guitarist Mahamudo Selimane from Mozambique who has toured the world playing this kind of music. We have a few members living in Fremantle, including Mahamudo.”

Soukouss Internationale do dance workshops with Quentin Thony (La Reunion) and Chabala Chalwe (Zambia) teaching simple and fun soukouss routines suitable for all the family.

There’s also a guitar workshop with Searle and Selimane giving an introduction to the history and techniques of Congolese guitar, teaching songs by the likes of Kanda Bongo Man and OK Jazz. Searle says Soukouss Internationale didn’t rest on their laurels during lockdown and kept busy in the studio.

“We will be releasing a song called Papa Q in the next few months.

“It’s an original written by Thony and Selimane in a classic old school soukouss style.” The guitarist says the band’s multicultural mix makes playing fun and interesting. “We have, or have had members from so many different countries all over the world – Cuba, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Mozambique, UK, DR Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Seychelles, La Reunion and Canada. “I think everyone is grateful for the opportunity to live in Australia, particularly at the moment.”

Soukouss Internationale play Mojo’s next Saturday (September 5) with two shows (6pm and 9.30pm) to accomodate for dancing under social distancing. Tix at http://www.mojosbar.com.au/ soukouss-internationale-early-show-6pm/ 

By STEPHEN POLLOCK

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