Fally Ipupa Live at New York City's Manhattan Center - December 30, 2006

Concert report by New York's 'Bikutsi 1'.  Photography by William Farrington

One of the new generation Congolese singers who has received quite a lot of focus this past year has been Fally Ipupa, who made his name with Koffi Olomide's Quartier Latin and most recently released his solo debut in 2006 entitled "Droit Chemin".  The album generated quite a buzz amid Congolese music circles and included a strong element of R&B and additional cross over appeal.  On December 30, 2006 New Yorkers were treated to a live concert by Fally Ipupa at the prestigious Manhattan Center.   
   

                                               Fally Ipupa

 
Fally brought with him dancers and an atalaku from Paris and worked directly with New York based musicians including members of the Soukous Stars band - Ngouma Lokito, Shiko Mawatu, Isaac Katalay as well as veteran guitarist Dominic Kanza, who has assisted Papa Wemba during several of his U.S. tours.  The group wisely spent several days prior to the performance rehearsing in New York City so that the arrangements were quite tight, following the song / music structure of Fally Ipupa's recent solo release, and on some numbers concluding with scorching sebenes.  Following is a report from one concert attendee:  
   

Ngouma Lokito, Dominic Kanza & Shiko Mawatu on guitar

 

Isaac Katalay

 

 

 
"The event took place at the Hamerstein Ballroom's upper auditorium which is a very regal theater with lush mood lighting by the large stage. Seats were cleared out of the first floor, a large central dance floor was set up, and large round tables were placed around the dance floor.  The production: band, music, venue and sound was very well done. Members of the Soukous Stars band - Nguoma, Shiko, Isaac joined by Dominic Kanza played several rumbas to warm the audience up. Then Fally joined the stage for a long set of his own signature style music.
   

   

   
The show started around midnight and music went for several hours, many of the audience trickled in by midnight despite doors opening at 8pm as has become unfortunate custom.  Fally was joined by two female singers/dancers and an atalaku, I believe all four were brought in from Europe as I did not recognize them from the local scene. Fally performed most of the songs from his latest release and also participated in some extended dance sebenes which delighted many members of the audience. The audience, pressed up to the gates in front of the stage, were ecstatic with Fally. His vocals were excellent, he had very good poise and communicated well to the crowd - mostly females flocked to the front.  
   

   
The backing band, which had wisely rehearsed with Fally leading up to the show, did a good job mimicking the sound of Fally's solo release and I was pleasantly surprised that it did not seem thrown together as I had worried given that this was a group that did not regularly perform with Fally. It seemed a more successful musical backing effort than the Kanda Bongo Man shows from last summer. This was probably because many of the songs were slower, stripped down rumbas that focused on guitar, percussion and Fally's vocals and this the band could do well and at the same time showcase Fally. At one point Fally gave the audience the option - dance music or singing music.
   

   

   
The audience first chose dance music which resulted in a hard hitting sebene, Fally and the 2 dancers did a very animated routine which the crowd loved. I could tell though that Fally was eager to shift to more of a rumba song as after a bit of that he gestured to the musicians to slow down the tempo and then again asked the audience "What do you want, dance music or singing music?" - and this time before the audience could answer he responded "singing music" and, after deciding for himself the band launched into a slower ballad followed by more rumbas.  All in all it was an excellent event and we are eager to hopefully catch Fally Ipupa again performing on his next visit.