Ricardo Lemvo is a singer of Angolan descent who lives in Los Angeles, California. His music is a blend of African soukous, kizomba, samba and Cuban salsa.
The rumba has been back and forth across the Atlantic as often as ships can carry it, but Ricardo Lemvo has added a new touch, bringing himself over from Zaire to play the mix of Cuban and West African sounds in the U.S.
Born in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire (or the Congo as it then was), Lemvo started out by playing in bands that covered American R&B, learning his English phonetically from the song lyrics. But he heard the rumba incessantly on the radio, and also in his cousin’s large record collection. The final factor was growing up next to a bar, where the music played all day. But in 1972, when Lemvo was 15, the family was uprooted, moving halfway across the globe to Los Angeles. But Lemvo never lost his love of the rumba, although he had to put it on hold for a while, gaining experience performing with bands in L.A., before forming his own group, Makina Loca (a deliberate misspelling of maquina loca, Spanish for crazy machine) in 1990. By his own admission, the band didn’t really begin to take off until 1996, by which time it had gelled, bringing in players with Cuban, African, and Chicano backgrounds. A residency at an L.A. club, Luna Park, helped tighten the sound, and their self-released debut, Tata Masambo, showed what they could do — helped by such prestigious guests and renowned rumba singer Sam Mangwana.
In 1998 they signed with Putumayo. Mambo Yoyo, the band’s debut with the label, was a more sophisticated affair than its predecessor, working to fuse Cuba and Zaire, and largely succeeding. It certainly helped establish the group beyond their hometown, and launched them onto the international circuit. The release of Sao Salvador in 2000, a record several steps beyond the last one, showed an evolving goal for the band, with good balladry and a richer sound, while still remaining very true to the rumba root that’s been their core. Lemvo toured extensively behind it, but has still to achieve two dreams — playing in Cuba, and touring Africa.
Ricardo Lemvo’s Website: