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First in a Series Titled 'congotronics', this is the Long-awaited Album by Konono N°1, a Band Founded Over 25 Years Ago by Mingiedi,a Virtuoso of the Likembé (A Traditional Instrument Sometimes Called "Sanza" Or "Thumb Piano", Consisting of Metal Rods Attached to a Resonator). The Band's Line-up Includes Three Electric Likembés (Bass, Medium and Treble), Equipped with Hand-made Microphones Built from Magnets Salvaged from Old Car Parts, and Plugged Into Amplifiers. There's also a Rhythm Section which Uses Traditional as Well as Makeshift Percussion (Pans, Pots and Car Parts), Three Singers, Three Dancers and a Sound System featuring These Famous Megaphones.the Album was Produced and Recorded in Kinshasa by One of the Best Connoisseurs of Congolese Music and Old Car Parts, Crammed's Own Vincent Kenis.
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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.
When I playthis CD, and it must be loud, everyone will ask, "who is this group?"
Check it out.
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.
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)
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.