02/07/2011 03:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Seductions of Soukous (VIDEO)

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There is nothing that brings me out of a funk like dancing. Dancing has been the way that people have celebrated the world over, ever since we had feet. Science has even confirmed that it really is good for you, as it releases all those lovely endorphins. And it's free. You don't have to be rich to dance.

My personal dance epiphany occurred when I was invited to my first Haitian party (which by definition is a dance party). I had my trepidations -- what if I danced "wrong?" I need not have worried. The very fact that I was moving seemed to be enough to elicit smiles of approval. And the compas beat was so easy to dance to: no counting, no worrying over "steps." You could fit just about any move into it, from the complex to the could even just pogo to it. I danced all night.

I mention all of this because Diblo Dibla was in town for GlobalFEST playing the Congo's most uplifting export, soukous, which to my ear shares a pulse with Haitian compas, and even the dance form that co-inhabits the island, the Dominican merengue.
The producers of GlobalFEST wisely put Diblo at the end of the evening, along with the other get-em-up-and-dancing bands in the other two rooms. And dance we did; after a few songs, I put my camera down and joined in.

The Seductions of Soukous from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Yes, there are some real sound problems in the video (in an otherwise excellent evening's sound) but I really wanted to share that which cannot be conveyed exclusively by ear. One must see, too, in order to appreciate the participatory nature of this genre, and understand why the crowd roars approval as the dancers enter 3 minutes in. And check out those sensuous rolling moves that shout to the world "These women don't need Pilades!" Don't be intimidated by these fabulous dancers. This is party music, so just get up and move. You'll feel great.

At home, Dibala's been dubbed "the machine gun" for his rapid fire, clean as a whistle guitar licks, but you won't hear any western style shredding coming from him. Rather, his guitar lines, like his vocals, float on top of the groove or weave in and out, giving the sound a sugar-sweet lilt. This is guitar work in the service of the beat, not the ego.

Connection of Note: I first noticed Dibala's name as the co-author of Dominican megastar Juan Luis Guerra's 1992 hit "El Costo de La Vida."
One listen to the original track "Kimia Eve" shows just how close Guerra stayed to Diblo's version.

For more Congolese dance music, check out one of my earlier posts of Papa Wemba at WOMEX.