Konono No.1

This Congolese musical group has been active since the late 70s, going under various names including Orchestre Tout Puissant Likembe Konono No 1 and L’Orchestre Folklorique T.P. Konono No 1 (the T.P. stands for tout puissant, French for ‘all powerful’). Based in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group is led by likembé player Mawangu Mingiedi (1933). He assembled a group of amateur musicians and singers from his native tribe, the Bazombo, but attempts to play the acoustic music associated with the likembé (a traditional Congolese thumb piano) were hampered by the ambient noise of a bustling city. In response, Mingiedi assembled new likembés made out of car panels and constructed a DIY sound system featuring microphones built out of alternator magnets and some discarded tannoy speakers. The other group members then provided rudimentary percussive backing on snare drums and pots and pans, and a female vocalist and dancers were recruited to complete the ensemble.

The remarkable music created by Konono No 1 is based around the crackling hum generated by their homemade amplification system. The musicians utilise this electronic vibration to great effect, with the three likembés (bass, medium, treble) sounding remarkably like electric guitars fed through very cheap amplifiers, and the clattering percussion providing an insistent, infectious beat.

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