Here we are with a Congolese soukous guitar piece that’s got four different phrases in 4 sebene sections. If you want to learn how to play this uptempo African guitar music, please just scroll to the bottom of this article to purchase and download the tablature. Four phrases and four parts?! Indeed; we’ll see what it means below. If you thought our previous soukous lesson was Latin influenced, you’ll certainly notice that the above one is even more like that. But hey, that’s how it’s supposed to be with a genre that comes from son cubano. Even if they called it Congolese rumba. 😐 Oh well, some confusion just adds to the fun, right? The song is apparently in G major, but it’s really in C lydian mode. Still, if we want to express the progression in relation to the major key, it’s V-IV, during the entire length of the song, in 4/4 time.
Syncopating Single Melody Line
The usual syncopation of the rhythm is present here, and the first phrase is a linear melody. As you can see in the video as well as in the 2nd measure of the tab, that little riff consisting of four 16th notes has to be played on the B string. Whatever fingering you choose for this part, make sure that it enables you to play it fluidly, without any stutter. The following two notes that end this beginning phrase are just as important. After them, you need to repeat the 1st section three more times, and that means you have to skip from the D to the B string 3 more times. If you play it fingerstyle, either with fingerpicks & thumbpick, bare fingers or the combinations of these, it will be much easier to get right. Of course if you’re already an accomplished pick player, you’ll flow through this with no problems as well.
The 2nd section mirrors the rhythm of the first one, only it plays different notes and it has more of a staccato feel. In other words, some of the notes need to be played with a shorter duration. Be very aware when you shift from the lower position of the 1st section to the 2nd one, played at and above the octave of the fretboard. Practicing hitting that 1st note of the second part very slowly but in time will be fruitful. Just like in the first part, there’s a pull off in this one as well.
The Double Stop Riff
In the third part of this sebene, we are diving into double stop heaven. Or at least something like that, because other than the connecting little phrase, this entire section is built of double stops. These dyads are all on the B and high E string, and are not very difficult to play, as long as you can get into the playful, rhythmic feel of the groove. That connecting riff I mentioned above has a pull off, just like in the previous parts.
In the fourth and last section, we have this simple to play but very stylish phrase of fifths. Just like in the double stop part, these 5ths are happening on the B and E strings. This particular section with the fifths is very salsa sounding. It’s defined and highlighted especially by the syncopation of the groove. After playing through the required repetitions, the song ends with an interesting inversion of an ambiguous add9 chord, a quartal chord.