In the 1950s, Tabu Ley Rochereau helped pioneer the Congolese-Zairian style of guitar-led dance music now known as soukous. In this 12-song collection, recorded in May 1994, Rochereau looks back at some of the highlights of his own songbook. The now-California-based bandleader focuses on three periods from his still-developing career—the early, formative days; the late ’60s, when his material moved uptempo; and the 1980s, when several songs he recorded with vocalist Mbilia Bel returned him to popularity throughout Africa. While the original recordings of many of these compositions are hard to find, making comparison to the present versions difficult, the recent renditions (which are not presented in order by composition date) are compelling in their own right. Traditional but not dated, Rochereau’s current arrangements for his 11-piece band, Afrisa International, emphasize his sweet voice and the group’s ringing, high-pitched guitar rhythms, which vary in tempo more than those of young dance club–fixated soukous outfits. Thus, while a song such as “Likala Ya Moto” may be punctuated by a propulsive guitar-picking pattern whose directness and energy recalls the simple drone of the Velvet Underground, it begins with more soothing folk and rumba accents. Both “Nairobi” and “Christina” start off as schmaltzy ballads before suddenly picking up steam, and “Lisanga Ya Bambanda” and “Africa Mokili Mobimba” interweave potent Latinesque horn flourishes throughout.—Steve Kiviat

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