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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely unexpected genius
I always enjoy searching new and unique music, but my eye naturally goes to mysterious album covers. When i saw "congotronics: Konono N1" at the music store, and it's likembe's plugged into an amplifier, i was truly intrigued. Digging into my deep memory, i remembered playing with these little likembe's in elementary school, as part of learning about other...
Published on October 21, 2005 by Beau

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The raucous African rhythms of Konono No 1
'Congotronics' sounds like what would happen if an African tribe were to play music/participate during a Rio carnival procession. This 12 piece collective combines boistorus marching rhythms with African worldmusic, tribal but infectious at sametime. Central to the sound is dense cyclical percussion, call and response chants, whistles, and a thumb-piano which sounds like...
Published on December 26, 2005 by Wickerlove


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely unexpected genius, October 21, 2005
By 
Beau (St. Louis, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
I always enjoy searching new and unique music, but my eye naturally goes to mysterious album covers. When i saw "congotronics: Konono N1" at the music store, and it's likembe's plugged into an amplifier, i was truly intrigued. Digging into my deep memory, i remembered playing with these little likembe's in elementary school, as part of learning about other cultures.

Well, this is another example of cultural diffusion, from an area of the world that doesn't get much musical credit. From the depths of poverty in Kinshasa, Congo comes an album that manages to rival even the most avant-garde modern experimental music- using ELECTRIC likembes and spare car parts.

If the sheer resourcefulness of this group doesn't impress you, the infectious rhythm and raw sound certainly will. It has a very tribal african feel, but incorporates a very modern, electrified sound with their use of instruments. And there is layer upon layer of sound... though the entire album may seem continuous and identical, you can hear very complex structure throughout the album. It's similarity also lends itself to a danceable trance-feel.

For the brave and perserverant, this will prove to be a very rewarding addition to your dance, electronic, or world music collection.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing music that is truly left field, March 18, 2006
By 
somethingexcellent (Lincoln, NE United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
I will be the first to admit that I'm not always abreast of the latest, hottest music. Part of the reason I started accepting and posting reader's lists on my site was because I figured that I'd be able to add even more titles to my list of things that I should hear. After looking through lists for 2005, Congotronics is one of those albums that showed up several times and a couple weeks ago it finally filtered up to the top of my purchases pile.

Damn, I should have done this sooner. Konono N°1 is a group of musicians founded almost 25 years ago and now situated in the Peoples Republic of Congo. The primary instrument of the group is a somewhat rudimentary thumb piano called the likembe, but they also play percussive instruments made out of old car parts through hand-made microphones and megaphones. Their music is raw and pounding and hypnotic as heck. Basically, it landed in my CD player and has been spun many, many times since first hitting the deck.

The disc wastes no time in getting going, as "Lufuala Ndonga" rumbles out of the gate with a three-pronged (octaved) likembe attack leading the way over ramshackle percussion, overlapping, almost chanted vocals, shouts, and whistles. The track doesn't have a huge amount of variety or any major shifts, but it works in a trancelike way, as elements come in and out of the mix and tumble over one another, always pushing the track onward and upward. "Masikulu" changes things up slightly by keeping everything in the higher registers for portions of the track then dropping the bottom out with rumbling fills from a bass likembe.

The two-part "Kule Kule" feels a bit more traditional as it peels back the heavier layers a bit to reveal a slightly more melodic side of the instrument as the players lock in with one another and deliver both subdued moments and bursts of intricate melody. The most musically-developed piece on the album is easily "Paradiso," which the group recorded while playing a show in Europe. As the likembe melodies bounce all over the place a steady beat and rhythm keeps a thumping time as wicked snare bursts rip through the track in several places. It runs seven minutes long, but wiggles into your head and once it stops playing you wish it had gone on for twenty. Just to leave you gasping, the group blows out the end of the album with the relentless, almost twelve-minute "Mama Liza," I've listened to a lot of what would probably be considered traditional African music, and I've never heard anything like this before. It's something that could appeal to everyone from fans of Can to Fela to Kompakt. This is inspiring stuff.

(from almost cool music reviews)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very unique and remarkable, September 18, 2005
By 
Vermonter (South Burlington, Vermont USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
It is rare to find African, or any indigenous, music that has not been corrupted into "world music" by greedy producers/corporations. This album, and the group, Konono No.1 have been left alone to do what they do best--combine traditional instruments and rhytyms with low-tech modern technology pieced together from mechanical leftovers. The result is an incredible groove that lovers of trance music, dance music and ( like myself ) Congolese rumba will find irresistible.

I collect African music from the 50's to 70's. The sound quality reminds me of very early Zaiko Langa Langa, where distortions are incorporated into the music as the band has no other alternative.

This may be the best dance music from the Congo since Franco and TP OK Jazz. You will note that in hommage to Franco, the band is known at home as TP Konono No.1. "TP" is French for Tout Pouissant or All Powerful. If you start with cut 5, Paradiso, you will agree.

I recommend that you google the web sit for Crammed Records and sample a few selections. The find of the year for me.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African roots of Congotronics, August 18, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
On listening to the Konono #1 band, I was pleased with the separation of the many levels of sound. In reading reviews, I was pleased that my initial impression, that this music was being compared to music in the West, turned out to be wrong. The reviewers seem to appreciate the cultural depths these musicians pull from in creating their sounds. In particular, I pulled out recordings of Congolese music from the 50s and 60s. I would note The Face of Africa, London TW91204, esp the first cut on side two which should be listened to in conjunction with cut #3 of Congotronics. Ocora's Musique Kongo OCR36 has numerous cuts that allow you to see the elements of this music that have been electrified by Konono #1.

The buzzing sound, in particular, is created by rattles on the hand or spider webs placed in holes in the drums, the basis for the appeal of the buzz from speakers.

The electrification of "bush" music recalls the electrification of blues into an urban music in this country.

Pat Barrett
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars do yourself a favor and expand your mind, June 17, 2009
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
If you're a fan of super-distorted tweaker music this album is for you. That thing you see on the album cover is a "thumb piano" and it is something like a mix between a keyboard and a guitar...the sound of the instrument is something like what the Velvet Underground must aspire to should they make desire to recreate the sounds of WhiteLightWhiteHeat. Don't kid yourself...of course the thumb piano by itself is nothing at all to be considered extraordinary. Only when you plug it into homemade guitar and bass amplifiers does it sound become pleasant for your average dope fiend. That, of course, is exactly what these African brothers prefer. Throw into the mix an array of percussion sounds and some ritual voodoo chanting in the lingala tongue.

With these three elements, Konono produce a frantic sound that is highly danceable. There are some similarities to electronic music...but really the music is far too alive to be anything but the music of Satan. Thus, one might also classify the performance as experimental rock.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, January 4, 2007
By 
Robert Claus (Craig, AK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
I listened to this cold--with no information about it--and was blown away by the percussion. I have a irrational fondness for techno, but this is better. I have bought the cd three times to give to friends--buy it now!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing..., December 5, 2005
By 
Tripleg (Loyalton, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
This is music that gets under your skin and into your soul.

Out of the ravages of the Congo comes music of raw beauty and pure ecstasy. Albums such as this give me faith that the well of music is not yet fully tapped.

Highly recommended...albiet only if you have dancing shoes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone will ask "Who is this band?", December 15, 2006
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
It takes a few minutes for the title track to really kick into the grove, but when it does, hold on. The recording quality has a lot to do with the ambience of this CD. It's a bit of a rough take, but it adds to the purity of the sound. Home made instruments being played on the street. If it was squeaky clean, it wouldn't be as good.

When I playthis CD, and it must be loud, everyone will ask, "who is this group?"

Check it out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible world music strangeness, July 21, 2007
By 
C. Invidiata (Kew Gardens, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
Picked this up on a whim, and dear lord its just incredible. I've listened to is probably 10 times this week already.

It's (semi-)traditional Congolese rhythms, played on home made thumb pianos and percussion instruments, mostly improvised from old rusted car parts, and ran through home made amps and sounds systems. The description may make it sound like it should be low-tech scratchy badness, but its honestly just beautiful, and I challenge you not to bob your head through the entire album.
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5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME, November 25, 2007
By 
COMPUTERJAZZMAN "computerjazzman" (Cliffside Park, New Jersey United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Congotronics (Audio CD)
I AM ALWAYS INTERESTED IN DISCOVERING NEW AND DIFFERENT SOUNDS IN WORLD MUSIC, AND WHEN I PICKED THIS CD UP, I HIT THE JACKPOT! THIS IS WEST AFRICAN MUSIC, FROM THE AREA AROUND THE BORDER OF THE CONGO AND ANGOLA, AND IT IS ENHANCED BY ELECTRONIC AMPLIFICATION, WHICH WAS MADE FROM SPARE CAR PARTS, AS WELL AS SOME OF THE PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS AS WELL. A LOT OF CHANTING, CALL AND RESPONSE, DISTORTION, COMPLEX PERCUSSION RHYTHMS AND ELECTRONIC FINGER PIANO (IKEMBE), IT REALLY IS AN AMAZING EFFORT. YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD THE IKEMBE PLAYED LIKE THIS, OR SOUND LIKE THIS.
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Congotronics
Congotronics by Konono No 1 (Audio CD - 2005)
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