The first Congotronics was the Konono n°1 album, which introduced as a first example of self-built amplified acoustic music with beautiful accidental distortion. Because of the success of that album, 6 more comparable Kinshasa bands were recorded for this volume 2, all from different backgrounds showing a very diverse expression. Also their music came originally from outside urban life, but then was changed and electrified to make hear them hear them in the busy city life. The subtitle of the album, “buzz’n rumble from the urb’n’jungle” refers to this, in a Mohamed Ali fashion of presentation (remember “the rumble in the jungle” when Ali fought in Kinshasa in 1974).
I started at first with the video, which now came with the second edition of the album, and gush-wow! what a terrific sound sound! (Sobanza Mimanisa). Distorted voice, acoustic bells, electric fuzz, electric distorted thumbpiano, whistle, with vivid talented spontaneous dancers, trance and happiness nearby. It reminded me of how my teacher of world art said that for African art or statues I had to be conscious of the local contexts : very thin figures occur for instance on areas where there were mostly thin trees, and there were sculptured only details for the head because the rest was only meant to be covered up and wrapped with plants and cloths. The way also how these throw away statues from rituals, is now so called art, landed in museums without the whole context (and most often clothing), and without the ritual significance, the whole meaning of it and its form becomes ridiculised, and almost laughable because in the end visitors start to look at it and judge it for certain details of primitivism. When you see this music performed in all its vivid, theatrical form it gives a very complete, almost overwhelming experience because so much happens in its total of expressions. Therefore I still decided to see first how much the music works on its own, and decided to take out the music first instead, to see if it also sounds complete as a listening experience.
And for me it surely does. The use of amplified sounds makes the music much more colourful, and for those who just say it’s just louder and noisier I don’t agree at all. Already on the Masaka Sankayi together with the Kasai All Stars track, the use of distortion contrasts is simply beautiful and colourful (in voice, kalimba, guitar), and form with its rhythm and song a perfect vivid world with trance-inducing clarity. The Kasai All Stars solo track shows a bit more in acoustic colour, with great contrasts and trance-like evolutions in sound. The Sobana Mimanisa track combines the fresh sounds of bells with the more intense fuzzed kalimbas and electric guitar, and amplified voice (balofone), and is very entertaining, also dance-inducing. The next Kasai Allstars track is again very different, and is led by colourful acoustic percussion, singing, guitars, and even what seems like repetitions, something is changing the whole way through. More dominated by kalimba-sounds is the track by Kasanzi Congo. Also on the Masanka Sankayi track I need to say that the buzzed sounds of amplified sounds of the instruments are just perfect and beautiful as they are. From Bolia We Nedeke we should not miss the very funny, almost theatrical performance on video because with the audio we only hear a simplistic accordion repetition on a hypnotically rhythmical song, but the performance shows how like an entertaining joke how the accordion was given as a “magic instrument” by the Belgian government. Basokin’s track is again more trance-like that ever in such a way it is almost sound sequenced like a synthesizer, while being played by acoustic percussive instruments, electric guitars, very kalimba-like. The last track of Konono N°1 shows the group while performing in Belgium.
The video alone is worth the purchase. Seeing the spontaneous dances alone with the costumes, it is worth buying (not only the dancers from the Kasai Allstars). The night performance of Basokin is also worth seeing. From the Tulu track which is only on the video it is also worth seeing alone for the addition of a new instrument amongst kalimbas and berimbaus : two sardine boxes connected with a spring, or how new instruments can find offspring so spontaneously. On the same track we can see some beer bottles go from one dancer’s head to the other. The complete compilation of videos is a must-see.