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Congolese rumba maestro Fally Ipupa on his new album 'Formule 7'


Fally Ipupa is taking the Congo global.


FALLY IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language).

RASCOE: That's "Formule 7," the title track from Fally Ipupa's latest album. And he joins us now from Paris. Welcome to the program.

IPUPA: Yes, thank you.

RASCOE: So you've been making music for more than two decades. And you have a lot of fans in France and the Democratic Republic of Congo, your home country. Is this album a new experience for them, or is it an extension of your signature sound, the music you've been making for a long time?

IPUPA: It's extension because it is my seventh album, so a little bit African music, Congolese music and international music.


IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language).

RASCOE: You're part of a long line of Congolese rumba masters. Is Congolese rumba related to Cuban rumba? How would you describe Congolese rumba for those who may be unfamiliar?

IPUPA: Congolese rumba is one of beautiful music in the world because you have many good melodies, good lyrics. And the real music comes from Africa, going to Latin America like Cuba and come again to Africa. So that's why it's more rich music in the world. It's similar like bossa nova, salsa.


IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language).

This is the only music you know that you play live, everything live, not just playback. That's what you make rumba from - this beautiful and rich music.

RASCOE: And it sounds like it has a lot of energy to it.

IPUPA: Yes. Make power in music.

RASCOE: You create your music in French, as well as your native language, Lingala. How do you decide what language to use when you're creating a track?

IPUPA: When I create music, the first language to come in my mind is Lingala because where I'm from, we speak Lingala. Lingala is my first language and then French and English. So you can listen to my music more Lingala because I'm from Congo, and one of language we spoke is Lingala. So Lingala is one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

RASCOE: Your first major French record was 2017's - and I'm going to make sure I get this right - "Tokooos." That's a word that you created. Tell us about Tokooos and what you want it to mean.

IPUPA: Tokooos just means everything positive, like beautiful, nice, good, positive things. So in Lingala, we say kitoko. I create tokooos. Tokooos is my brand.

RASCOE: So your brand is good vibes? Like, good vibes only, I think we would say in the U.S. Good vibes only.

IPUPA: Yes. Good vibes, yes. Good vibes.

RASCOE: Let's hear a bit of "Garde Du Coeur."


IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language). You need - it's a bodyguard, but it's a bodyguard but for heart.

RASCOE: Oh, a bodyguard for the heart. Oh, OK.

IPUPA: Like, I'm going to protect your heart. No heart breaking.

RASCOE: And who was the voice that we heard there? Who was the singer on that?

IPUPA: One of the singers is from Cameroon. His name is Charlotte Dipanda, one of the great singers (inaudible).

RASCOE: How often do you work with other artists from across Africa? Like, is that an important part of your music?

IPUPA: It is good for us to collaborate to do the good thing, good music, good (inaudible).


IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language).

RASCOE: How are you hoping to reach more listeners in America? What are they missing out on if they don't listen to you?

IPUPA: I was just going to say, America needs to listen to me because this is one of rich and beautiful music. The good music - they miss something great (laughter).

RASCOE: That's Fally Ipupa. His latest album is "Formule 7." Thank you so much for joining us.

IPUPA: Thank you. You're welcome.


IPUPA: (Singing in non-English language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.