Music Critics Pick the Last Song They Want to Hear Before They Die

Franco & TPOK Jazz — “Limbisa Ngai”

A few years ago, a number of friends (some critics, some not) had taken to filling CD-Rs with MP3s of songs from a particular year, and my friend Mike picked 1984, pretty much the definition of a great pop year: great radio hits, teeming underground, 12-inches and albums and MTV making it seem like there was action wherever you turned. At the very end, he put Franco & TPOK Jazz’s “Limbisa Ngai,” a solid ten minutes of Congolese guitar rumba from the man who minted the style. “It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever,” he said at the time. I think he should have cut “pretty much.” For six or so minutes it’s a song, full of dips, stops, subtle builds, gorgeous vocalizing, and restlessly looping guitar. Then it steps out, and the guitars start ratcheting things up. They’re rough, vibrant, alive; they miss notes — the drummer even screws up the horns’ cue. And all of that just makes the record more exciting. They’re reaching — it’s in their grasp. And when they finally connect, when the horns finally enter, the effect is so total, so enveloping, that it can be like everything else — not just in the song — was leading up to it. Then they do it again, and again.

Michaelangelo Matos