Konono No. 1: Tradi-modern music from Kinshasa
February 25, 2003 10:18 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by jokeefe (16 comments total)
The story is great... but, sadly, the "music" sounds terrible on the website. I'm a bit disappointed.
posted by Witty at 10:26 AM on February 25, 2003

Try the mp3 linked at the bottom, not nearly as distorted as the embedded sound on the page itself. Interesting sound - maybe I'm jaded (or unfamiliar with the original), but it doesn't sound all that far removed from a traditional sound. The police whistle and carved wooden microphone made me smile though.
posted by kokogiak at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2003

They're recording an album with an experienced producer to be released this summer, and it will no doubt sound better than the demo on the site... For others perhaps considering visiting, even if you don't play the quicktime file, do check out the pictures, especially the handmade wooden microphone.
posted by jokeefe at 10:31 AM on February 25, 2003

Oh right... the MP3 is indeed, FAR better in quality. You can hear the vocals and everything. Thanks (I missed it the first time). I wish there were more. I wish audiogalaxy was still around. I wish...
posted by Witty at 10:39 AM on February 25, 2003

If you like modernized African music, check out the Red Hot + Riot CD. It's an AIDS benefit, so your hard-earned CD money actually goes somewhere useful. Femi Kuti and Bugz in the Attic combined with Talib Kweli and Roy Hargrove? Good stuff.
posted by Kevs at 10:44 AM on February 25, 2003

wild. thanks jokeefe.
my favourite guide to African Music (amongst others) has always been Andy Kershaw
posted by gravelshoes at 10:58 AM on February 25, 2003

If these kinda sounds float your boat, I recommend "Mali Music" a new compilation/collaboration by Damon 'blur' Albarn, Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabate and others.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2003

Amazing and brilliant and made my day. Thanks!

I also agree about the Red, Hot & Riot compilation. Greatest record of 2002. And profits go to fighting AIDS in Africa.
posted by Rattmouth at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2003

I just order two!
posted by Witty at 11:56 AM on February 25, 2003

posted by Witty at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2003

That's some good stuff. I love the homemade, lo-fi vibe of this stuff. It's kind of lifke early dub or hip-hop, with people like King Tubby and Grandmaster Flash building their own mixers and FX--if the desire to make the music is strong enough, people will invent the means to make it.
posted by arto at 1:09 PM on February 25, 2003

WOW! I'm with you, Arto -- I dunno what some folks are talking about re: the 'bad' sound. The post explains that they are playing off the distortions caused by their amplification. These guys/gals get the deep deep cool of electronics more than anyone meeting at Open Air on Sundays in Manhattan... they are going with the faults and inconsistencies... I find it just amazing.

The track on the main page sounds fantastic to my ears. It could be a lost track off of Tortoise's "Standards" album, but without $50,000 worth of modular synthesizers. What a fantastic, amazing sound!

Sorry to gush, but this really takes the blood off of the West's bleeding edge experimental electronic scene... if Warp had signed these guys and released the record with scary alienating graphics on the cover it would be electronic album of the year.

I wonder if their recording with a 'better' producer will ruin their sound.
posted by n9 at 1:17 PM on February 25, 2003

maybe 'the high level of urban noise' is an integral part of the sound. i think the optimal recording situation could be a stereo mic right in the middle of the street.

the quicktime downsampling bit distortion could be what's making it sound a bit more contemporary to me...

distorted frequencies from strips of rough metal plucked, distorted again through homemade speakers, distorted again through web compression, distorted again through PC speakers. many levels, very nice... cool link.
posted by erebora at 1:45 PM on February 25, 2003

I wonder if their recording with a 'better' producer will ruin their sound. n9, you are right--I should have elucidated that a bit better. The producer is Vincent Kenis, who has worked with Zap Mama, Taraf de Haïdouks & Koçani Orkestar, and I also trust that the master musicians of Konono know what kind of sound they want and will maintain that throughout the recording.
posted by jokeefe at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2003

I'm weird, but I though the distorted sound of the Quicktime movie was really intriguing. The MP3 was good, but I really liked that buzzy bell sound.
posted by pyramid termite at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2003

jokeefe, great post.
If there was a [this is good] button here, I would be pinging it like an electrified likembe.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2003

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