Friday, June 11, 2010

Konono No. 1: Assume Crash Position

Richard Elliott reviews Konono No. 1's Assume Crash Position.
This bringing together of traditional music (associated with Mingiedi) and modern pop styles (associated with Manuaku’s soukous music) is suggestive, as is the involvement of other young guitarists who have been inspired by Konono No. 1. In the DRC, Konono have often been portrayed as old-fashioned, at odds with the modernizing sounds of the soukous, pop, and hip hop sounds popular with young (and even middle-aged) Kinshasans. This has led Mingiedi to claim that the group have a more promising future in Europe than they do at home. At the same time, he continues to nurture young talent from his base near the Ndjili market and is clearly open to the kind of collaborations exemplified by this new album and by his group’s appearance on the recent album by DRC rapper Baloji.

Whether the slightly more varied sounds on Assume Crash Position will find a place in the hearts of Congolese audiences remains to be seen. It is hard to see how the album could fail to impress foreign listeners, however. It is everything Konono have given us before and more. It is one of the most vital and alive albums released so far this year and it gets better with every listen, working equally brilliantly through speakers at high volume and through earphones for an immersive experience like no other. Whether it is the trance-summoning bleeps, whistles, and samba-esque drumming of “Fula Fula” or the intimate invitation of Mingiedi’s solo closing number, the music of Konono No. 1 continues to demand involvement on the part of the listener. This is glorious noise.
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