I found it always a shame that African music interest often stays associated with the usual form of Highlife genre defining this often as the true sound of Africa. Luckily the Ethiopian jazz series showed us something else. I personally always like the hypnotic trance of contemporary African music, which only rarely finds recording sessions. Luckily this release is, finally, one of the exceptions. During the almost obvious rave one would experience during a listening pleasure of this recording, I think one must also realize a couple of things in it, that are the elements which makes this particular recording so successful. Any musical performance with a live energy needs a couple of conditions in sound how to be effective for a purpose of any recording session or live performances in a different perspective. In this case, what really makes the effect of the music so effective, it is also partly because it is played through hand-carved wooden microphones with attached magnets of old car parts and parts of car starter-motors, attached to a 25 watt amplifier, which in combination with the already hypnotic playing adds a slightly distorted sound with a very psychedelic effect. The percussion made out of scrap auto parts and freight train snares adds a colourful vibrating percussion. The combination of all these elements and more makes the music so perfect. There are three thumbpiano’s : one for solo, one for accompaniment and one for bass, three drummers, congas (ngoma), cowbells and the metal plates percussion, two singers, three women dancers and a band leader who is just present, as the ruling king.
Konono No.1 was founded more than 25 years ago by thumb-piano (or likembe) virtuoso Mingiedi Mawang, and was discovered during a journey by some The Ex members (?). The music is based upon ‘new traditional’, or better, urban street music played by some Bazombe tribal members. (The Bazombe are a tribal group who lives on the border of Congo and Angola. Black Africa can be considered as being forced by Western standards and colony interests into ‘countries’, while many people -if not having found some newer religions with other ideas- still regulate their world like tribes, something which causes of course troubles, because some tribes became rulers of such countries, causing discrimination and conflicts). A highly recommended release.
Crammed Discs Konono n°1 : Live at Coleur Café (CO/ANG,2007)***'
On their road the Konono n°1 band bought new shirts and costumes, and their self-built amplifiers stand lonely on stage like forgotten theatre objects. So, to a degree they became a different band, making it hard for technicians on stages to make amplification make similar "buzzed" sounds again, which doesn’t happen as much. Konono n°1’s music is rhythmical music from older traditions, evolved into a contemporary form. The basic elements are still hypnotic, but a bit clearer and stripped. This is still good because, like with the Cuban all stars, for Konono n°1's trance-hypnotic element is in their blood, but the expressions sound less necessary for making it heard and enjoyed as if it matters so much or life would fall apart. This still is a fine concert, or how tribal music became a pleasant urban fashionable form to entertain a multi-coloured cafe.
PS. This release made me realize also that something unique in Cuban, as well as Congo groups, is that when performing like poor people on the streets, giving themselves completely in order to survive and enjoy, there's a risk that when you make such groups rich they could eventually fall back on a lazier repetition, with the "real" sound-attention and emotional freedom becomming less effective than before. You cannot simply bring these things over to a place which has no relevance to this. May be it will still repeat itself a few times, but how long will it be able to feed itself from here ? Only under inspiring circumstances I think World music is different from tourism and entertainment, which some people can afford to bring it to them to give them a meaning they have something new... In a Western World and context it will always be the personality and personal context which will reveal itself in the end, whatever that will be (or will become)...