COMPOSERS: Konono No. 1
LABELS: Crammed Discs
WORKS: Congotronics – Konono No. 1
PERFORMER: Konono No. 1
CATALOGUE NO: CRAW27
A new series of urban music from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, begins with a veteran band transforming traditional African sounds in a way you’ve probably never heard before. The basis is a trio of likembes (thumb pianos) backed up with percussion and raucous sung choruses, while the distinctive feature is period-style amplification with a set of superior megaphones at the centre.
Very loud it is, but the control of distortion becomes an art form in itself, kept on the edge of clarity with much more subtle results than the rock and ‘noise’ of 20 years ago that it parallels: a better comparison is 1990s electronic and dance music. Seven tracks maintain a relentless, often repetitive drive and pulse, with a couple of brief respites. Yet the experience remains exhilarating thanks to resourceful, inventive musicianship. Robert Maycock