Konono No.1 are an Africa collective originating from the border area between Congo and Angola. Featuring likembe (or thumb-piano), percussion and vocals, they draw on the Bazombo tradition of trance music, and in their mission to bring this music to urban environments, they found themselves the inadvertent innovators of a new sound. When playing on the noisy streets of an African city, amplification is required to make oneself heard, and so Mingiedi and his associates built themselves a makeshift soundsystem constructed from discarded materials. With their own amateur amps, microphones, megaphones and percussion objects, they were forced to embrace the originally unwanted distortions of their soundsystem. This has resulted in a hybrid new form that has much in common with the aesthetics of experimental electronica and rock. If a little more rough-and-ready, it immediately put me in mind of the electrified Indian tabla (or `tablatronica') of Tabla Beat Science and Talvin Singh.
The amplified likembe produce a sound like marimba with fuzz, and this is accompanied by lively rhythmic drumming, whistling and chanting. The beat is infectious, and it's easy to imagine dancing yourself into an altered state of consciousness. In Nigeria, Fela may have created the distinctively funky Afro-Beat, well now Konono No.1 have created its percussive, central African cousin. I would love to see this group perform live, so I hope they secure a popularity that might bring them to the Euro-American performing circuit. This is the second album by Konono No.1, whose success has clearly had an impact, and I'm glad to say that I shall soon be seeking its follow-up `Buzz and Rumble in The Urban Jungle', a CD and DVD of music in a similar vein, featuring six different electrified bands from Kinshasa. Groove on!