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Thread: congotronics

  1. #1
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    Default congotronics

    something?

    konono - traditional african music with cheap distorted amplification

    http://www.crammed.be/craworld/crw27/press/press.htm

    http://konono.linktvstore.org
    (music samples)


    KONONO NO.1 - Congotronics (Crammed Discs)
    So here it is! Hard to believe it's finally here -- some of us have been waiting forever for this record, or at least ever since we discovered a tiny, super compressed, thirty second long sound clip on the internet over a year ago. In all of half a minute, we became OBSESSED. Completely captivated by this band's totally alien, lush, organic 'world music' weirdness. We eventually tracked down a (great) live record by Konono No.1, which we listed here a few weeks back, and then after tons of internet sleuthing and a bunch of emails we finally managed to get in touch with someone at the Crammed label in Belgium who was willing to sell us this brand new studio album directly, since they are without US distribution. Phew! So was it worth it? Hell yeah! Anyone who heard that infamous sound sample (which was from this album), or who got to hear the live record, knows that this band is totally amazing, and indeed this record is beautiful, wild and wonderful, chaotic and festive, totally perplexing but completely mesmerizing. For those who missed out on the live record (which we've also just restocked!) or are new to the wonders of Konono No.1, here's the story: twenty five years ago, Konono formed in Kinshasa, an area between Congo and Angola, performing their own version of traditional Bazombo trance music, incorporating the then-unwanted distortions of their haphazard homemade sound system. They left the bush and settled in the capital where they were forced to compete with the harsh sounds of the city: cars, trains, buses, shouting, etc. So with very little to work with they fashioned pick-ups, microphones, loudspeakers and amplifiers from stuff they could find on the street -- old car batteries, pots and pans, magnets, even branches. Their main instrument is the likembe, a kind of thumb piano. Konono features three of 'em (bass, medium and treble) and the sound of the electrified and amplified likembe is what defines their sound. Accompanied by dancers and percussionists, the likembes wail and drone, buzz and moan, totally overblown and distorted, sounding a little like sixties fuzz guitars, turning a glorious high life jam into something much more strange and wonderful. Super rhythmic, and thick with the buzzing melodies of the likemebe's, Konono weave a massive sound. It's the wildest weirdest street party you've ever been to. Throbbing with energy and emotion, rambuctiously rollicking and totally infectious. Seven lengthy tracks that all sort of bleed and fuse into one epic world-psych jam. The African high life Hawkwind? So so great!

  2. #2
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    Dec 2004
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    Thumbs up

    -it's really cool. i've considered getting this for a while...but have to make priorities, as income is a bit...non-existent at the mo'... nice distortion/weirdness, though...!!

    -refreshing to hear the "real" thing, as opposed to bland devilish world-music shit being pushed by some sleazy marketing people...
    -we need more streetwise african musicians getting the mainstream attention they deserve ! -now!

  3. #3
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    Default Konono No.1

    i've heard the short extract on the Fatcat site, i,ts exellent.The Bill Laswell/Realworld axis truly killed "World Music" for many(along with its' very names patronising quality) ....
    Anyone who loves a ramshackle approach to technology will appreciate this group.

  4. #4

    Default

    The Ex recently toured France with Konono, and I'm pretty sure they covered a Konono tune on their last album. I have a few CDs and the stuff is nice; it's basically badly amplified Congolese thumb piano music.

    Congotronics is a bit of a misnomer, implying electronic instrumentation or some relation to electronica/dance,etc. (the first exemple of, er, proper afrotronics that springs to mind would be south african kwaito)

    I'm a fan of warped rugged African street music, so I wonder if i'm being counter-revolutionary when I say I actually prefer *non-distorted* mbira-type sounds, the harmonic sensibility is already mindblowing... /r

  5. #5
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    Default Konono

    Having listened for months (or was it years?) to that short sample described above,
    then hearing new Konono music on Fluxblog recently , now notice on Dissensus >
    been diggin it all along .
    Definitely Something and fine as it is !

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rupture
    I'm a fan of warped rugged African street music, so I wonder if i'm being counter-revolutionary when I say I actually prefer *non-distorted* mbira-type sounds, the harmonic sensibility is already mindblowing... /r
    any reccommedations on this kinda stuff.

    out of interest what did you think of the extreme music from africa thing on whitehouse's susan lawly label?
    apart from the vile artwork etc.

  7. #7
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    Default hmmm hmmm

    Being Congolese I still don't know how I feel about that.

    I also still don't see what's so original here.


    Plus Franco was doper anyway.

  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by afrobongo
    Being Congolese I still don't know how I feel about that.

    I also still don't see what's so original here.


    Plus Franco was doper anyway.
    this is interesting, can you explain a bit more why?
    Whos Franco?

  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mms
    Whos Franco?
    Franco and his band Zaiko Langa Langa are the "Sex Pistols of Rhumba." Thats the strapline anyway. Francos stuff is lovely, raw, romantic.

    I cant help but be a little suspicious of the Congotronics project. It does seem a one off conceptual exercise designed to appeal to Wire readers. I'm certain the music is good, and should probably be just plain enthiastic but alas........

    Theres loads of electronic music from the subcontinent which doesnt feel the need to frame itself within the parentheses of "the avant garde". I'm sure the band are guilty though, its just cynical marketing isnt it?

  10. #10
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    Default

    I like undistorted mbira too, would love to hear more of that.

    I also love this studio congrotronics record. 'cheap distortion' isn't the most effective way to describe what they're doing, they know exactly what to mix in straight, full fidelity, and know what feeds to shatter into thousands of beautiful overtones. These people know what they're doing.

    I'm actually happy to see Crammed Discs doing something interesting again, I grew up on their Made to Measure series in the 80's, and label bosses Vincent Kenis and Marc Hollander were in the fantastic Aksak Maboul... world-fusion has a deservedly bad reputation but there were a lot of great releases on that label. These people put out Sussan Deihim & Richard Horowitz' 'Azax Attra: Desert Equations'. I'm not suspicious of those people, I'm happy they've finally got this new record out.

    CPorter reprints info-packed letter from Kenis detailing the recording of the studio record: http://www.christopherporter.com/2005/01/konono-no.html
    Last edited by MiltonParker; 25-02-2005 at 12:48 AM.

  11. #11
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    Default

    I must say I would like to listen to this.

    Those seeking unadulterated instrumental mbira music could do worse than check out Zimbabwe Shona Mbira Music on the Nonesuch Explorer series. It's not Congolese, but it is quite captivating. (Thomas Mapfumo's chimurenga takes traditional Shona mbira rhythms and transposes them to electric instruments, well worth hearing if you like both modern African music and reggae --at least the old stuff he made while in Zimbabwe, not in his present US exile, which I don't know.)

    Franco, 'the sorcerer of the guitar', is definitely one of the greatest Congolese musicians, but his band are the OK Jazz or TPOK Jazz, not Zaiko Langa Langa, who have plenty of merits on their own. His discography is very extensive, stong periods apparently being the early 70s and mid-late 80s (mostly available on the Sonodisc label). Check track listings across recordings to make sure you are not buying what is essentially the same set of tracks. Personally, I like the albums with Sam Mangwana and, especially, Dalienst on vocals. Intense.

    If you don't know Congolese soukous (the modern form of the Congolese rhumba), imagine a sound based on a trap drum rhythm not dissimilar to reggaeton, with two or three electric guitarists interlocking fast melodic riffs and a brass section that, while earthier than in afrobeat, still leaves you utterly devastated. Add about a half-dozen or so main vocalists, usually top-flight talent. Songs clock in at around 8-10 minutes on record (which can be expanded to three times that in a live context) and start off at a relatively slow pace to give the singers some room. When everyone has had their say, songs kick into a different gear (the so-called sebene) and the instrumentalists have space to flex it some. Some younger 'speed soukous' acts do away with the vocal section entirely and launch straight into the sebene. A soukous orchestra in full flight is a very powerful, very catchy and beautiful sound.
    If I may recommend a single semi-recent modern soukous compilation (budget, to boot!): Lightning over the river: the Congalese (sic) soukous guitar sound (Nascente, 1999).

    @MiltonParker: that Made... series, how far does it go and is it all worth listening to? I picked up the first volume with Tuxedomoon, Aksak Maboul etc. and was intrigued. Mainly soundtracks for film and dance performances, right?

  12. #12
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    Default

    WOEBOT i think yor'e right, theWire (and the middle classes in general) are hardwired (sic) to fetishize the Other.

    BUT...what are the options ? objectification or a Nathan Barley ????
    Last edited by labrat; 25-02-2005 at 01:02 PM. Reason: oops

  13. #13
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    Default

    Thank you Redcrescent

    i couldn't have explained it better

  14. #14
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    Default Franco

    jus got to big up 1 more time Benn loxo du tccu for some nice entries about franco,



    carine had some lush downloads - Mario is a Franco classic - sorry if you missed these mp3s

    some little tastes hereon this very stylish site: ON ENTRE OK, ON SORT KO

  15. #15
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    Default Konono

    I'm enjoying a lot (thanks boom!z ), it's a very different sound to say koffi olomide or papa wemba or the other etoiles du lingala?

    i struggle to imagine how konono would go down in the same context ? it maybe authentic roots but it's not really pop - so must appeal more to the non-dancing euro/connoixeur market?

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