“I tried to break the spell–the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness–that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations.”
Ever since Conrad‘s portrayal of a Leopoldian Congo in his infamous story of psychosis “Heart Of Darkness“, the folk of the West have been captivated by the enigmatic visions brought to us by the people who have lived and explored this somewhat daedalean territory deep in the heart of Africa. Since those times of the “Free State”, the Gongo has gone through many radical and extremely violent transitions, but since the dawn of man has been a place of fervent creativity and ingenuity. This year, Damon Albarn led a troop of artists including Actress, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Dan The Automator, Jneiro Jarel, Richard Russell, Marc Antoine, Alwest, Rodaidh McDonald and Kwes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s capital city Kinshasa, with the intent of collaborating with the country’s native musicians and tap into the creative sprirt that is rife within it. They were given 7 days in which to record an album, and considering this timescale and the music birthed within it, “Kinshasa One Two” is nothing short of an astounding achievement.
The results are the sound of an orchestra of multi-genre artists, who you could easily be tricked into thinking have been working together for years, but one of the main reasons why this album jells so well is because the majority of the Western artists involved have spent their musical careers making heavily beat-orientated music, and ultimately that inspirational genesis lies with Africa’s innovations in the field of percussion. Lest we forget, Africa is the birthplace of Rhythm, and still to this day the people of the Congo will use virtually any available object in which to create music. At a number of points throughout “Kinshasa One Two”, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the Electronic and Acoustic elements. The homemade African instruments can sound so unorthodox and strange to those unfamiliar with their sonic nuances, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they emanated from an electronic instrument or computer. None of the artists who came to Africa to record have been mentioned in the tracks (this is being reviewed from an MP3 version kindly given by Warp to those who have pre-ordered the album), so I assume they have all had some sort of input in every track. The African artists however, are duly noted in each track they’ve contributed their talents to. I’ve searched ‘tinternet high and low to find out more on these artists and groups, but alas has yielded very little info, which I assume is one of the other reasons this album came into being, to spread word to the wider world of the existence of these amazing musicians.
Tout Puissant Mukalo and Bokatola System are the only groups that make multiple appearances on the album. The former’s track with Nelly Liyamge kicks off proceedings with “Hallo“, and has a sublime question-&-answer style vocal, backed by a rhythm not unlike that of Hud Mo‘s much loved “Ooops!“, and a bassline and melody brimming with solace. Bokatola System‘s entry with Evala Litongo is one of the more dancefloor orientated tracks on the L.P, a swinging head-nodder thats hard not to move to, with ghostly flutes (?) sweeping into the mix. Other highlights include vocalist Love‘s acapella rap “Love“, the hard electronic modes of “Three Piece Sweet Part 1 & 2” featuring Bebson (and sounding suspiciously like Actress had a large hand in production duties on this one), and the marching Afro-Electro boogaloo of “If You Wish To Stay Awake” featuring Washiba. The standout track on this album for me though has to be “Ah Congo“, a colossal slab of dark Electronica, with Jupiter Bokondji showcasing one of the best and deepest voices i’ve ever heard on record. Since my grasp of French is next to non-existant, I unfortunately have no idea what his extremely ominous sounding monlogue is about, but if any track on this L.P invokes the Congo’s baneful past and present, then it’s this one. In short, “Kinshasa One Two” is an outstanding LP, made even more impressive when taking into account the amount time it was recorded in, but all of this is down to the hard grafting and undistuptable talents of all the artists involved.
All proceeds from this record go to Oxfam, who will use the funds to help the thousands of poor people who inhabit the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So if you’re going to acquire a copy of this, then BUY it.
DRC Music – Hallo (Feat. Tout Puissant Mukalo & Nelly Liyemge)
DRC Music – Love (Feat. Love)
DRC Music – Lingala (Feat. Bokatola System & Evala Litongo)
DRC Music – Three Piece Sweet Part 1 & 2 (Feat. Bebson)
DRC Music – Ah Congo (Feat. Jupiter Bokondji & Bokatola System)
DRC Music Tumblr
DRC Music Website