Photo from the Crammed Records website.
The story goes, that deep in the Congo and Angola, traditional Bazombo trance musicians had to rig up crude amplification systems to make their music heard above the cacophonous urban din when they moved into city. Using used car parts and other assorted junk they plugged in their Likembes ('thumb pianos'). Other instruments are made up from similar discards of the modern city. The result is a frenzied, distorted noise not unlike elements of dance/ techno or industrial music. Essentially, it is more 'techno' and 'industrial' than a lot of the crap we might associate with those 'genres.'
What really stuns me about this music is how poetic Western music journalists have been when attempting to describe it. 'Pre-historic acid house,'sophisticated brutality (that) leaves permanent traces in the conscience of the listener,'the frenzy and locomotion of prime '70s Miles or a Krautrock jam,' 'squelching waves of fuzz,' and 'the raw sound vibrates like a passing train engine, with percussion led by twanging thumb pianos, simple drum patterns, and singers chanting and blowing whistles.'
Truly, Beauty From The Filth.
Konono No1 are the best known bands to come out of this 'scene.' Led by virtuoso Likembe player, Mawangu Mingiedi (pictured above), Konono No1 were eventually 'discovered' by western musicians. Not surprisingly, they hooked up with The Ex early on during their international fame and have subsequently recorded two albums. Minigiedi says, "I didn't know there was such a thing as electronic music. I don't borrow from anyone."
They are playing Portland next week and I really should be going to see them but I have this thing called a 'new job' ... so I might just have to miss out on this meaningful, post-modern, transcendental, mind-expanding, life-changing, musical experience just so I can earn some $....