|“The "No Format" project sprang more from a desire to play together, have fun together and learn stuff from each other and be a bit spontaneous about things.” – Richard Bona, RFI Musique
“I see this album as a dish cooked up by three different chefs, each busy adding a touch of garlic, a pinch of salt and a bit of spice and color. The result is like a nice collective cake, but a plain simple one without any kind of pretension!” – Lokua Kanza
“What we were trying to do was step outside the reassuring structure of language and let out emotion and share that emotion with others through the music.” – Gerald Toto
In an age where every recording is over-planned and over-produced, something marvelous happened in December 2004. The famed French producer Laurent Bizot brought three musicians together in a Paris studio: the astounding Cameroonian bassist/multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Lokua Kanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the sensational singer Gerald Toto from Martinique. They arrived with no pre-conceived formats or ideas. What emerged is this pioneering CD, which takes its name from the musician’s last names, and is arguably one of the most inventive and expressive recordings of the year.
Imagine Bobby McFerrin’s DNA broken down and recombined with sub-Saharan syncopations, African guitars, percussion, synths, Afro-Antillean rhythms, laced with jazz improvisation, and soaked in English, Lingala, Douala, and Creole languages, and you’ll uncover the musical ingredients of this dynamic disk.
Each artist compositionally contributed to the CD’s 12 tracks. Some of the standout cuts include Bona’s guitar-centric, human beat-box bounced “Ghana Blues,” the kora-like cadences of Kanza’s “Lamuka,” Toto’s Negritudinally-nuanced, doo-wop entry, “Help Me,” and his soaring, Black, Ben & Beige harmonies on “Flutes.” Instrumentally, Bona unveils his spare, Erik Satie-esque pianisms on Kanza’s “Stesuff, ” and his impossibly complex bass intro on his composition “Seven Beats,” shows why he’s called the “African Jaco Pastorius,” as it resembles the legendary bassist’s tune, “Okonkole Y Trompa.”