KONONO No. 1
(DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
The very un-Democratic Republic Of Congo currently hosts our planet's gravest ongoing human rights tragedy. Yet the ills of civil war have not stopped Congo 's citizens making music - as Zaire the nation hosted one of Africa 's hottest scenes - and none are currently more innovative than Konono No 1. Mixing a traditional thumb piano with instruments created out of salvage, this fusion forces Congolese music into experimental terrain and Konono No1 create dissonant, fabulously polyrhythmic, 21st Century African music.
Who are Konono No1? How did they create such a wired, unholy sound? Formed 25 years ago, Konono No 1 are a Kinshasa band playing a form of Angolan/Congolese trance music based around the sound of the likembe (a traditional instrument sometimes called "sanza" or "thumb piano", consisting of metal rods attached to a resonator). Yet poverty and a brilliant concept of recycling saw Konono No1 build a sound like nothing ever heard before.
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 that uses traditional as well as makeshift percussion (pans, pots and car parts), three singers, three dancers and a sound system which involves blasting the music through megaphones. The musicians come from the Congo and Angola border region.
Konono No1's repertoire draws largely on Bazombo trance music but through necessity rather than choice they have been forced to incorporate the originally unwanted distortions of their sound system. This has lead Konono No 1 to develop a unique sonic attack, a loud, harsh, grinding music that spits and feeds back so suggesting Zairian guitar legend Franco jamming with The Velvet Underground. Appropriately, Konono No1's sheets of sound and dissonant distortion have proved a leftfield hit, appealing to avant-rock, experimental music and world music enthusiasts. As the band's thumb pianos and synthesisers crash into sheet metal percussion at a party held in Kinshasa 's shanty towns African dance grooves have rarely sounded so raw and atonal. This is the true metal machine music: Lee Perry and George Clinton never imagined an Afro-cyber futurism quite like Konono No1.
Crammed Discs profile
BBC Music review
I'm 66 and danced a hole in my carpet when I first heard them! Infectious, surreal.Hope they don't give up their home made instruments when they make some money.Great fun band with heart.
Heather, West Vancouver, Canada
Thank you to the people who have brought this energetic sound to international attention.
Pierrot Ngadi- Cardiff
Onbehalf of the Voice of Congo and organisation which aims to unify Congoglese people, including those who were born, grew up, worked and interested in Congo would like to thank BBC Radio for recognition and Award prize accorded to Konono no 1, a Congolese band from kinshasa. Pierrot Ngadi Muller
Saw Konono in La Roche,france in august.I've seen a lot of african bands over the years but never one a s extraordinary as this.I thought at the time,'they can't be accused of every number sounding the same because they only played one;for an hour and a half,and then played the same 'tune' for ten minutes as an encore.As raw and infectious as if i was watching them in Kinshasa.Go and see them and get Kinonoed!
Konono N°1's sound makes the soul dance. I'm happy to know that this band is getting their due recognition. They are touring all over the place, can't wait to see them in Central Park NYC on July 23rd!!
I am bakongo from North of Angola If you can see we bakongo in congo Kinshasa we are free than in Angola.So why our tradition is grow abroad,This music should from angola but not from there because the goverment some time they don't concider tradition to avoid our tribe the world know we are power in Angola than them.
If you haven't yet listened to Konono, get straight to it - joyous, extraordinary, you have to dance - bloody brilliant!
We know this group from backhome for, long time and their still play nice and good music for the world and god them bless for the first time in europe back i am sur is not the last timein europe you will be happy and enjoy that music from j.p meya de london
D. NKishi, Italy
Thanks to (bands like) Konono N°1, thanks to (folks like) V. Kenis for helping to make them be known to folks, who'd otherwise hardly ever hear of them, and thanks to (labels like) Crammed for having been such a supportive plattform for non-mainstream music to be distributed to those of us, who find it hard to turn on the radio these days. ***ONE LOVE***
The idea of having a band that's been going 25 years up for a 'best newcomer'award seems a bit surreal - though similar 'discoveries' occurred when Amadou & Mariam and Orchestre Baobab burst onto the International commercial scene towards the end of long and successful careers in Africa. And all this after we've now accepted Columbus as the 'newcomer' when for 500 years he was seen as the one who discovered America.