Various Artists – Crammed Discs, Congotronics 2

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The wild, incessant and thoroughly unlikely afropunk electronics heard on Konono No. 1's remarkable Congotronics return bigger than ever on this multi-group sequel. Konono founder Mawangu Mingiedi considers these groups the "children" of the sound he pioneered three decades ago. Eager to have his tribal rhythms heard above street noise, Mingiedi fashioned electric likembé thumb pianos, loudspeakers, microphones and percussion out of spare parts scavenged from local junkyards. The result was a modern-primitivist marvel of tribal chants, distorted melodies and trance-inducing rhythms. The six bands heard on Congotronics 2 beside Konono No. 1 work variations on Mingiedi's sound — sometimes adding additional guitars, other times subtracting a likembé or two — without diminishing its intrinsic hypnotic spirit and playfully distorted wave forms.

The ‘children’ of Konono offer even more Afrofunk

It's hard to oversell the rhythmic verve and sophistication heard in tracks like the Kasai Allstars '"Koyile/Nyeka Nyeka," which strongly suggests Philip eating Glass. A more melodic take on the Konono formula can be found in Kisanzi Congo's "Soif Conjugale" ("Marital Thirst"), which was recorded in a deserted Kinshasa shopping mall. And the origins of Louisiana Zydeco's relentless accordion sound are revealed in Bolia We Ndenge's "Bosamba Ndeke." The record's highlight, though, is probably Basokin's "Mulume," a magical number that really kicks when lead vocalist Mputu "Mi Amor" Ebondo bows out, leaving the band's two guitars and chorus to vamp on an increasingly ferocious four-note figure for several minutes. By the time Konono No. 1 bring the album to a close, Mingiedi's group sounds almost refined.