Grupo Lokito
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Grupo Lokito

London, England, United Kingdom | SELF

London, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band World Latin




"Grupo Lokito - Esengo Ya Ko Bina"

Esengo Ya Ko Bina, which in Lingala means ‘the Joy of Dancing’, is a nine track heady, feel-good mix of Congolese and Cuban music. A band of UK based African and Latin musicians led by singer José Hendrix Ndelo and salsa pianist Sara McGuinness, Lokito create a glorious sound. More sensual than hard salsa, from the opening ‘Generique Lokito’, their serenading soukous-style guitars swing over layers of rhythms while sweet voices tell of love lost as in ‘Bolembu’, or of fighting for change back home, as with ‘Espoir’. Essential beat-the-early-winter-blues material. - The List (Issue 668) 6 October 2010

"Looking for a New England"

The UK’s Congolese and Cuban communities are both well established, so why not combine the music of the two? That was the thinking of talented salsa pianist Sara McGuinness when she formed Grupo Lokito in 2006. Their dynamic live shows mix soukous with salsa and son to exhilaratingly swinging effect, much of which has been captured on their recently released debut album from which we have the title track. - fRoots Magazine

"London Afro-Cuban Group nail that authentic sound"

Grupo Lokito, a group of London-based Congolese and Latin musicians, have been simmering on the London live music scene for a couple of years now. This album is their first release and it’s an uplifting set of songs with all the rich Congolese vocal harmonies, spicy soukous guitar lines and Cuban salsa rhythms that they do so charmingly well on stage. The Congo and Cuba have been sharing a musical heritage ever since slavery, when the Spanish shipped Congolese slaves to Cuba to work on the plantations. They took with them their African rhythms, which settled on the island, being returned in new forms centuries later when Cuban salsa became a hit in West and Central Africa. This album is a fine example of what the two musical cultures share- the amusing musical chit-chat of the Congolese singers and the clattering drum kit synching nicely with the salsa guitar and swinging dance rhythms. The title track is a rousing show of the vocal sophistication of the Congolese singers, a mixture f melodic harmonies and deep-bodied narrative set against a subtle tune and a gently paced rhythm, ‘Guajira’ is heavy on the salsa, a sultry swing dance rhythm sung in French and Spanish.
This is good dance music. Like most Congolese music of this genre it’s heavy on the electric keyboard which, set against such good vocals and instrumentals, can jar. But then it wouldn’t have sounded like proper Congolese or Cuban music. And this is nothing if not authentic.
- Songlines magazine Jan-Feb 2011


Esengo Ya Ko Bina, Malecon Records, 2010

fRoots 329/330: Looking For A New England 2 – The Other Traditions 2010
Rough Guide to African Street Party, World Music Network 2008
Urban Africa, Cavendish Music 2010
World City Music Village, Cultural Cooperation, 2010



The Congo and Cuba have been conducting an intense musical conversation for centuries now. When Congolese slaves were brought over by the Spanish to work on Cuba’s plantations, they brought their music with them, rhythms beaten out in defiance of their oppressors and celebration of their African identity, rhythms which soon merged with the island’s Spanish sounds to create something new: Son, Guaguanco, Rumba ... the Afro-Spanish roots of what was ultimately to mutate into Salsa. In the early part of the last century, the conversation continued as 78s of this musical hybrid made their way back to Africa, in turn infecting local sounds. The Congolese in particular picked up on the Cuban swing thing and soon every band was giving its sound a Latin lick.
Fast-forward to 21st Century London Town and the gifted Salsa pianist Sara McGuinness is out to create a band that fuses her love of Cuban and Congolese music. After much experimentation, Grupo Lokito is born. Featuring the cream of London’s African and Latin musicians, layering the swinging Soukous guitar sound of Kinshasa over the roots rhythms of Havana and then topping it all off with honeyed vocal harmonies and spoonfuls of hot Salsa piano. Their live shows bring the tropical party vibe.

And now we have the long awaited debut album, Esengo Ya Ko Bina, the title translates from the Congolese Lingala language as “The Joy of Dancing” and yes, this is dance music, but not in the dull ‘thump yer brains out’ sense. Lokito have got swing and charm, rich melodies and insinuating rhythms. A sound that makes just as much sense in the comfort of your own home as it does in a sweaty club. This is no engineered fusion, just the latest instalment in the Congo-Cuban musical conversation.
Jamie Renton July 2010
Sung in Lingala, French and Spanish Grupo Lokito’s songs reflect their experiences of life. The CD opens with Generique Lokito a Congolese-style introduction to the band. In Sans Frontieres and Bolembu they sing about love lost and gained. Esengo Ya Ko Bina, On va Danser and Guajira exalt the joy of music and dance. In Espoir Jose implores the Congolese worldwide to remember their homeland and fight for change whilst Mobembo tells of the hardships facing an immigrant musician trying to make it in a foreign land.