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Toto Bona Lokua Cuts Loose on New CD

Sometimes, the best plan is no plan at all. That was the philosophy behind Toto Bona Lokua, a new album that blends West-African rhythms, vocal harmonies, pop and jazz.

The musicians Lokua Kanza, Richard Bona and Gerald Toto may not be household names, but they are highly sought-after musicians who have collaborated with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Natalie Merchant and Pat Metheny. For this CD, they did something almost unheard of in today's world of over-produced recordings: they improvised.

French lawyer and former record company executive Laurent Bizot brought the three musicians into the studio, specifically asking them to be spontaneous. Each brought the basics of a song, and they took turns with solos and leading each composition. The result is a sound with the varied influences of each contributor: Bona is from Cameroon, Kanza from the Congo, and Toto is French-Caribbean.

Bizot isn't sure he'll record them together again, because he says magic like this music doesn't usually happen twice.

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Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.