The tale of how a collection of Congolese thumb pianos provided the missing link between punk, techno and all points in between, has taken 25 years to tell. And like fellow music visionaries across the globe, the remarkable sound they created was forged in the most desperate of circumstances and in the harshest of places.
Konono No 1 emerged from the Angola/Congo border bush and relocated to Kinshasa, steeped in the traditional Bazombo trance music. They amassed a collection of differently pitched likembé (thumb pianos, or metal rods attached to resonators and pick-ups), plus pots, pans, cutlery, microphones adapted from car parts, whistles, massed vocals passed though megaphones and a massive sound system.
This remarkable, unique noise soon garnered a fanatical following at home. The DIY nature of their equipment provided an integral, distorted sound, a healthy hum seeping into every rhythmic pause. The combination of all these elements created something notably African in pace and texture, coincidentally nodding to Western electronica.
The likembé merge to provide a brutal, hypnotising beat, the cousin to The 13th Floor Elevators' electrified jug or John Cale's manic viola. The rapid intensity of rhythm matches the finest exponents of Krautrock, occasionally drifting close to the confused energy of Aphex Twin or Autechre, with the damaged tempo of Beefheart or Marc Ribot slithering in.
It could really be from anywhere, at any time; its rawness at odds with the slow fall towards slickness and a polished, homogenised sound so sought after these days. And like all the best music, it needs to be played loud, as loud as their legendary, dizzying live performances...
This music comes from somewhere unknown and offers hope that there are worlds of music out there, unexplored and waiting to be discovered.
- Dale Shaw BBC (UK)
zaire: musiques urbaines à kinshasa
ocora c559007 hm65 (1987)
01 ORCHESTRE SANKAI Rythme Kuatankuaka 14.25
02 ORCHESTRE TOUT PUISSANT LIKEMBÉ KONONO No. 1 Mungua-Mungua 26.50
03 ORCHESTRE BAMBALA 9.25
04 ORCHESTRE BANA LUYA Animation 23.05
Recorded live November 1978 Kinshasa