The Congotronics series is devoted to the strange and spectacular electro-traditional mixtures which are being concocted in the suburbs of Kinshasa, Congo.

Konono N°1, Kasaï Allstars, Ndara, Sobanza Mimanisa and Kisanzi Congo are what they call in the Congo "tradi-moderne" bands.  Most of these musicians left the bush to settle in the capital. In order to continue to fulfill their social role and make themselves heard by the ancestors (and, more concretely, by their fellow citizens) despite the high level of urban noise, they had to resort to a makeshift electrification of their instruments, which provoked a radical mutation of their sound. The much-commented similarities  between this music and some forms of avant-rock or electronica is purely fortuitous, since these bands draw exclusively on traditional trance music and have been totally unaware of current Western trends so far.

These bands come from various parts of the country: the ancient Kongo kingdom, situated across the Congo river between Kinshasa and the Atlantic; the Kasai province, occupying the center of Congo; and the lake Mai Ndombe area, situated 300 km north-east of the capital. The original styles vary greatly from region to region but, being based in Kinshasa, the musicians tend to recruit each other on a personal rather than tribal basis, which leads to a lot of cross-cultural pollination. In particular, Kasai Allstars is, as far as we know, the first group to initiate a meeting between luba and lulua musical traditions which previously were supposed to be incompatible.

Some instruments used by these bands already sound 'distorted' when played acoustically, like the buzzing Kasaian drum featured in many songs; most of them are original creations or re-creations, made by the musicians themselves. We already know the electric likembe, or thumb piano, pioneered by Konono N°1, with its pickups made of copper telephone wire wound around crushed car alternator magnets. Electric likembes come in different shapes and sizes - you can even sit on some of them, like the one Masanka Sankayi use for bass ; others are designed to play the bass and solo parts at the same time. Some other bands use, for example,  electric guitars reassembled from parts with origins as diverse as Bulgaria, China and Mexico, hi-hats made from hubcaps and film cans on top of a front axle and wheel held upside down, rattles made of a steel spring and sardine cans, jugs made of a drain pipe glued onto a calabash with gaffer tape, etc.

In 2010, Crammed released The Congotronics Vinyl Box Set, a limited edition box containing vinyl versions of 5 Congotronics albums (including the Staff Benda Bilili album and Konono N°1's band-new ''Assume Crash Position''), plus assorted bonuses including a 7" single featuring a collaboration between Kasai Allstars and US indie-folk-rock band Akron/Family, a specially designed book with photos from Kinshasa, and a 2Gb re-usable pen drive packed with videos and mp3s.

The Congotronics series is curated and produced by Vincent Kenis.
  

Reception and tributes

Ever since the release of the first Congotronics album in 2004, the unique music of Konono No1 and Kasai Allstars has spawned a fervent following in the world of alternative rock and electronic music.
 
Writing about Konono No1, The New York Times mentioned Kraftwerk and Lee Perry, Newsweek spoke of "gritty sound distortions that would make Jimi Hendrix proud", while the Village Voice evoked Einstürzende Neubauten, prime '70s Miles and Krautrock jam…
The Guardian described Kasai Allstars' music as containing "some of the wildest and most unusual sounds on the planet", while The Independent felt that "every track has the DNA of rock, blues or contemporary music embedded in it" .

This wild enthusiasm was even more impressive among musicians: Konono and Kasai Allstars were often quoted as a source of inspiration and respect by anyone from Beck, Wilco and Animal Collective to Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Björk (who invited Konono No1 to appear on her Volta album) and many more.

Tradi-Mods vs Rockers 

In 2010, feeling that "the Congotronics bands received so much love from so many great Western bands that we thought we should give them all a chance to commit this love to tape", Crammed Discs invited a host of Western Musicians to take part in "Tradi-Mods vs Rockers: Alternative Takes on Congotronics", a multi-artist album containing interpretations, covers and tributes to the music of Kasai Allstars, Konono No1 and other Congolese bands, recorded by 26 indie rock and electronic musicians, including Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Juana Molina, Shackleton, Aksak Maboul, Lonely Drifter Karen, Jolie Holland, Andrew Bird, Wilco's Glenn Kotche, Oneida, Megafaun etc.


Congotronics vs Rockers


In 2011, Crammed decided to take the idea one step further, and brought together ten Congotronics musicians with ten indie rock musicians for the Congotronics vs Rockers project, a "superband" (including members of Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Kasai Allstars, Konono no1, Skeletons, Juana Molina and Vincent Kenis), who collaborated to create a common repertoire and performed at 15 major festivals and venues in ten countries.
 


News

Kasai Allstars' music in the soundtrack of award-winning film


"Félicité" earned the Silver Bear Grand Jury Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and features the band, off and onscreen

Kasai Allstars' wild new album now on preorder


The long-awaited 2nd LP by the mindblowing Congotronics collective from Kinshasa, DRC, will come out as a 2CD and a limited-ed. vinyl

Congotronics vs Rockers Tour = 30 day discount at 30%


30% discount on selected Congotronics CDs & LPs ! Only until July 30th!

Exciting debut shows for Congotronics vs Rockers


The first 2 concerts (in Brussels and Madrid) have been amazing!

Congotronics vs Rockers: first tour dates announced


The exceptional tour by the collaborative ensemble featuring Konono N°1, Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Kasai Allstars, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Skeletons is taking shape!

Konono No.1 win Grammy, tour Europe


The award for "Best Pop Collaboration" went to 'Imagine' by Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Konono No.1, Seal, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare

Congotronics Vinyl Box Set has arrived !


This strictly limited edition contains 7 vinyls (incl. the new Konono) and downloads of all Congotronics albums

Live Dates

No current live dates available!

Releases

CONGOTRONICS - Beware the Fetish
CONGOTRONICS
Beware the Fetish
cram233
CONGOTRONICS - Assume Crash Position
CONGOTRONICS
Assume Crash Position
craw60
CONGOTRONICS - Congotronics 1
CONGOTRONICS
Congotronics 1
craw27
CONGOTRONICS - In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into...
CONGOTRONICS
In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into...
craw44

SOUNDS, Visuals & More

Contains videos & live footage, free mp3s & streams, pictures, press quotes & clippings, and maybe even personal contributions from the artist.