Give it up for The Cramps and The Gun Club. Two of the greatest bands to come out of the late 1970s/early 1980s punk scene, they (wikis here and here) shared a few things in common: guitarist Kid Congo Powers as well as a penchant for re-invigorating the raucous, carnal, primal spirit of American popular music--i.e. early garage rock and rockabilly (what the Cramps dubbed "psychobilly") and blues. Start with this screamer from The Cramps, and this blistering classic from the GC's first LP. [more inside]
The other day I happened to come upon a music video that is just so grooving, so human and so real, that, well, it moved me, darling. Just check it out. After watching the clip, I learned that these guys are mostly disabled by polio (that's why several of them are in those rather unusual wheelchairs) and that they were living on the grounds of the Kinshasa zoo, which is where the clip was filmed. Then I learned that last year they were seeking to bring a lawsuit against the UN. Then I found some other clips. And now I am a major fan of Staff Benda Bilili. [more inside]
Koro, previously, has gripped the streets of Kinshasa, Congo. Unlike the 1967 Koro Epidemic in Singapore, which was blamed on tainted pork, the afflicted men in Kinshasa have blamed the psychosomatic penile shrinkage on witchcraft by a rival sect, and responded with attempted lynchings. In order to prevent bloodshed of the kind seen in Ghana a decade ago, police have responded by apprehending the alleged sorcerers. [more inside]
He is a sports character for the ages. At 41, he is the NBA's oldest active player. Number two all time in blocked shots, he is probably best known for his trademark finger wag and
unimitable deep gravelly voice. His current team's 20 game win streak has led him to gleefully suggest that their critics pucker up. [more inside]
#1 African Music Website. Africa Hit offers an extensive and varied selection of great music videos from West Africa. [more inside]
The full-on, amped-up sanza sounds of Konono No. 1 have been celebrated here at MeFi not once but twice, and they are indeed wonderful. Björk's been working with them a bit lately, too. But let's go back a few decades, and take a listen to the unplugged version of this type of music: mesdames et messiurs, Papa Kourand, the grand old man of the sanza! [more inside]
This article, about rape in the Eastern Congo, (nytimes, bugmenot here) makes for hard and disturbing, yet important, reading. [more inside]
Sex like a handshake (even baby sex?) Titilation and humor from Vanessa Woods, researcher at the Lola Bonobo sanctuary. (Previously)
Dear Friend, I am a Swiss Banker currently in possession of over $ 1 Billion in funds stashed away by the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo. Our Swiss Confederation President Micheline Calmy-Rey said her government is holding just $6.6m frozen in accounts. "We discussed the question of Mobutu's funds and my government is prepared to restore the money to the DR Congo as soon as possible," Ms Rey told reporters in the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, after talks with Mr Kabila. But we can help you get the rest of the 92.4 million dollars if you will just send us your bank account number and call to confirm your ID and pin number.
There is a remote part of the Congolese jungle, called the Bili forest, where local legend has long told of a breed of giant apes that eat lions, catch fish and howl at the moon. To his surprise Dutch researcher Cleve Hicks found them. In fact they are large chimps but they appear to have a number of behavioural differences from other groups seen in the wild. (More information from Wikipedia).
A band of Congolese rebels is threatening to kill all of the Virunga mountain gorillas. Two-hundred Mai-Mai fighters attacked conservation posts in the violence-prone Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in response to government efforts to protect Virunga National Park from settling and poaching. Virunga is home to roughly half the world's 700 remaining mountain gorillas (and was the workplace of Diane Fossey). Last year, Mai-Mai fighters killed nearly half of the park's hippos, eating the meat and selling the teeth as ivory, and in January they killed and ate two silverbacks. The increased violence is part of a trend that has accompanied attempts to integrate the area's independent militias- mostly remnants of groups that fought in the Congo civil war, then refused to disband- into the national army, and some observers believe that the war, which already killed 4 million, may reignite.
The world's second largest forest and one of the oldest on Earth, was traded for bars of soap and bottles of beer: Logging companies negotiate with local chiefs, walk away rich
To be a Sapeur in Kinshasa is to treat every trash-strewn alley or muddy street as a fashion catwalk. Inspired by Congolese rumba star Papa Wemba* and his Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants* (le Sape), urban peacocks cheerfully adopted "Religion Kitembo”, literally the worship of clothes. "The Pope of the Sapes" himself appears to have undergone a conversion since his recent legal troubles. Photo gallery by Héctor Mediavilla. *sound
"More Vicious than Rape." Thousands of Congolese girls and women, among the hundreds of thousands of rape cases, who have been deliberately harmed following their rape in a particular way with a brutality that staggers the mind. [more inside]
The vote count with a death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the other election to watch right now. Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, both of whom command large private armies say they will accept the results of the poll, though the truth of that remains to be seen. Bemba is implicated in war crimes (previously discussed here); and Kabila's inner circle controls much of the wealth of the DRC. Either way, a successful election would be better than a return to the war that killed 4 million people. And contrary to the paltry coverage the Congo receives in the news, what happens there matters to the rest of the world. But will the election results change the lives of Congolese civilians?
Dead Ringers: the Science Museum asks us the question "should we upgrade our mobile phone?" "No" and "no" say the Times and the Observer, but we still do: on average every 18 months. What's the problem? Well it isn't just the lead, arsenic, beryllium and brominated fire-retardant cases (pollutants all) disappearing into our land fills (which are not covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive [WEEE] in Europe). Coltan also goes into our phones. It occurs mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as such our demand for upgrades has been contributing to a war (despite mobile phone companies' claims to the contrary, coltan is not regulated like timber). If we must upgrade, we can at least recycle or hack our old phones.
Bought from a slave trader and put on display at the Bronx zoo: the strange, sad story of Ota Benga, a Pygmy with filed teeth brought from the Congo to America in 1906. Here are a couple of contemporary news accounts of the controversial exhibit. After the zoo, Benga tried to make a life in America, studying to be a missionary. "But what he really wanted to do was to tell everyone in this country that his people were dying, and why. I think he thought that eventually they'd listen. But they never did. That, to me, is the real tragedy." In 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth, performed a final tribal dance, and shot himself with a stolen pistol. Creationists say the story illustrates "the racism of evolutionary theory" and "the horrors that evolutionary theory has brought to society."
Negative Campaign Tactics in Congo: A candidate for president in Congo's first free election in four decades defends himself against accusations of cannibalism. He dismisses as libelous electioneering claims that he ate pygmies during his years as a rebel leader.
Congotronics! Mawangu Mingiedi, 72, a musician and truck driver from Kinshasa, was simply trying to allow the music of his street band, Konono No. 1, be heard over the traffic and street noise, but when he fashioned home-made amplifiers out of junkyard parts he created something raw and distorted with a sound all its own (quicktime). (via MonkeySARS, where an MP3 awaits you)
The Congo Expedition from 1909 to 1915. A decade after Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness first depicted the mysteries and agonies of the area, Herbert Lang and James Chapin set sail for the northeastern Belgian Congo. One of the many visual and auditory treats of this site is the delightful children's book, Where are you going, Manyoni? by Catherine Stock.
In Congo, 1,000 die per day: Why isn't it a media story? "A media story is currently developing around the Congo - focusing, paradoxically, on how the conflict is not a media story." A journalist's-eye view of a story approaching the tipping-point towards widespread media coverage.
Six foot tall ferocious lion killing species of ape discovered in jungles of the Congo. Or they could be giant chimpanzees. Or half-breeds. The discovery has baffled scientists.
History, Present, and Future of the Congo CBC has created a great multimedia site that tells the story of the Congo. Sad, maddening, but offers a ray of hope.
"We can only watch the slaughter, say UN troops" in the Congo - where machetes are turned into weapons of mass destruction - the hobbled UN presses for action, and the US and Major US Media outlets take no notice.
Konono No. 1 "This band is one of the main exponents of a spectacular style of music which has developed in the suburbs of Kinshasa (DR Congo). The Congolese call it "tradi-modern", in other words: electrified traditional music. These are musicians who left the bush to settle in the capital and who, in order to go on keep fulfilling their social role and make themselves heard by the ancestors (and, more concretely, by their fellow citizens) despite the high level of urban noise, have had to resort to DIY amplification of their instruments, and to megaphones (conical speakers). This makeshift electrification has provoked a radical mutation of their sound, as it has introduced distortions which they have integrated to their style. [...] The band's line-up includes three electric likembés [thumb pianos] (bass, medium and treble), equipped with hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, and plugged into amplifiers." Via womanonfire.
An estimated 300,000 people have fled across the Congolese/Rwandan border to escape lava flow from the recently erupted Mt Nyiragongo volcano. Many are thought to have died, but this mass movement has prompted fears that a much larger humanitarian disaster may be imminent.
More photographs here, map of the region here.
More photographs here, map of the region here.
Before you get that cell phone check to see where the tantalum inside it comes from. You could be funding a civil war in the Congo.
Well, that's it. We're done for. Ebola hits North America...maybe.
No Refuge: He fled the war in Congo for America. The I.N.S. greeted him by putting him in jail. -- this week's nyt mag has stories of people who have been in new york city for one year. this one is especially powerful.
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