205

Various Artists: Congotronics 2

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Various Artists: Congotronics 2 Earlier this year, the Congolese trance band known as Konono No. 1—a Mad Maxian agglomeration featuring ingenious and massive DIY amplification, electronically distorted, outsize likembe thumb pianos, and drum and percussion instruments made from recycled industrial scrap—burst out of Kinshasa to shock and awe the European music scene with Congotronics. It wasn't a jazz album by any means, but it was sufficiently creative, dangerous, and uncompromising to appeal to the experimental margins of the jazz, world, rock, and dance music scenes.

There's more of the mesmerising same, served up with a little more variety, on this excellent second volume in the series, subtitled Buzz 'n' Rumble From The Urb 'n' Jungle, featuring Konono alongside six other Kinshasa trance bands. Masanka Sankayi + Kasai Allstars open the album in bass-heavy, throbbing, neo-Konono style with "Wa Muluendu," and Konono itself shuts things down, more or less apocalyptically, with "T.P. Couleur Cafe."

In between these two monumental slabs of sound are seven tracks of a relatively (repeat: relatively) more subtle nature. Most of the bands have percussion and likembe sections in their back line, and these are variously augmented by up-front bells, balafons, berimbaus, accordions (a retained Europeanism dating back to the colonial era), slit drums, and rumba-meets-something-like-thrash metal electric guitars.

Compared to the smooth, lyrical grooves of the classic Congolese rumba style spawned by Joseph "Le Grand Kalle" Kabasele in the '50s and honed by Luambe "Franco" Makiadi in the '60s, today's Kinshasa trance bands might seem like rough trade coming out of nowhere. In fact, they are simply the latest and most extreme manifestation of a back-to-the-tribal-roots, post-colonial, punk-rumba, roughing-up tradition that started with Zaiko Langa Langa in the '70s and grew more pronounced with Choc Stars and others in the '80s. Konono and its brother/sister bands are an integral part of the dirt-poor Kinshasa suburbs where they find their audience, more or less recently arrived tribal people from the bush and forest, and they serve to keep traditional tribal cultures—and the human spirit—alive in the most desperate circumstances.

As an added bonus, Congotronics 2 includes a 45-minute DVD showing some of the featured bands in rehearsal. The handheld camera sound quality is poor, but the visuals bring the music to vivid contextual life. The dancing—all the groups include dancers—is a thing of wonder in itself. Basokin are fronted by three dancers whose stately yet astonishingly trippy choreography (and makeup) is inspired, quite probably, by divine intervention. Seeing is believing.


Track Listing: Wa Muluendu; Koyile/Nyeka Nyeka; Kiwembo; Kabuangoyi; Soif Conjugale; Le Labourer; Bosamba Ndeke; Mulume; T.P. Couleur Cafe.

Personnel: Masanka Sankayi + Kasai Allstars (1); Kasai Allstars (2,4); Sobanza Mimanisa (3); Kisanzi Congo (5); Masanka Sankayi (6); Bolia We Ndenge (7); Basokin (8); Konono No.1 (9).

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Crammed Discs | Style: Latin/World


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Mind Behind Closed Eyes" CD/LP/Track Review Mind Behind Closed Eyes
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Henry" CD/LP/Track Review Henry
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "The Great Jazz Gig In The Sky" CD/LP/Track Review The Great Jazz Gig In The Sky
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 8, 2016
Read "April" CD/LP/Track Review April
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 29, 2017
Read "Otterville" CD/LP/Track Review Otterville
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Eight Track II" CD/LP/Track Review Eight Track II
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!