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Pepe Kalle

Biography

Pepe Kalle was instantly recognized for his high ranging voice and his massive physical presence (6'5" and 400 lbs). One of the most popular singers of Congolese soukous in the '80s and '90s, he started off singing in a Christian choir in Kinshasa, Zaire. Later he served an apprenticeship with "Le Grand Kalle," the godfather of modern Congolese music, then joined the youth group Bella Bella. Bella Bella helped introduce the "sebene" into soukous, a second song section when the drums kick the band into higher gear and the singers improvise to inspire the dancers. With Empire Bakuba, Kalle's fame equaled his stature, and legions of interlocked guitar leads, bouncy drums and effusive bass backed the infectious melodies he sang in his sweet-toned voice. But ultimately it was his live shows, featuring the risque antics of his dwarf sidekick Emoro, that made him a legend. His death in the late 1990s coincided with diminishing interest in soukous.
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