Konono No.1's "Congotronics" album introduced the world to the strange and spectacular electro-traditional mixtures which are being concocted in the suburbs of Kinshasa, Congo. World music, electronica and avant-rock aficionados have all been equally amazed by this otherworldly music, which has driven the international press to come up with some surprising comparisons (from Can and Krautrock to Jimi Hendrix, Lee Perry and proto-techno!...).
The band was founded back in the 1960s by Mingiedi Mawangu, a virtuoso of the likembé (a traditional instrument sometimes called "sanza" or "thumb piano", consisting of metal rods attached to a resonator). By experimenting with magnets salvaged from old car parts, Mingiedi invented and gradually improved his own electrified likembe, which he plugged into a guitar amplifier. The band's line-up includes two or three electric likembés (bass, medium and treble), a rhythm section which uses traditional as well as makeshift percussion (pans, pots and car parts), singers, dancers and a sound system featuring these famous megaphones.
The musicians come from an area which sits right across the border between Congo and Angola. Their repertoire draws largely on Bazombo trance music, but they've had to incorporate the originally-unwanted distorsions of their sound system. This has made them develop a unique style which, from a sonic viewpoint, has accidentally connected them with the aesthetics of the most experimental forms of rock and electronic music, as much through their sounds than through their sheer volume (they play in front of a wall of speakers) and their merciless grooves.
The first Konono N°1 recording to come out outside of the Congo was a track included in the Zaïre: Musiques Urbaines à Kinshasa compilation, recorded in 1978 by Bernard Treton for the Ocora label, and released during the ‘80s. This track struck the imagination of Belgian musician and producer Vincent Kenis, who set out to find the band during his numerous trips to the Congo. He finally located them in the early 2000s, and recorded their first album, entitled Congotronics, which came out in 2004 on Crammed Discs., and was the the inaugural release in Crammed's Congotronics series, devoted to the exciting electro/traditional musical hybrids from the Congo.
The release of Congotronics created a sensation. The band’s wild, hypnotic sound made it an instant success with media, and with indie rock & electronic music artists and audiences across the world. The press went hyperbolic, and the enthusiasm was as remarkable among musicians: Konono became a reference, and was quoted as a major source of inspiration by numerous artists, from Grizzly Bear, Andrew Bird, Wilco, CocoRosie and Animal Collective to Thom Yorke, Björk, Beck...
The band appeared on the second album in the series, the multi-artist CD+DVD entitled "Congotronics 2: Buzz'n'Rumble From The Urb'n'Jungle" (2005).
Then came the live album "Live at Couleur Café" (nominated for a Grammy in 2008), and the band's second, official full-length "Assume Crash Position" (2010).
In the meantime, the band was invited by Björk to collaborate on the song Earth Intruders, co-produced by Timbaland, for her Volta album. They then played some US shows with her in 2007. Konono N°1 also collaborated with Herbie Hancock for his album The Imagine Project, recording a song along with Seal, Pink, India.Arie, Jeff Beck, Oumou Sangare and others. The song earned the Grammy Award for “Best Pop Collaboration” in 2011.
In 2010, Crammed Discs released "Tradi-Mods Vs. Rockers", a multi-artist album containing interpretations, covers and tributes to the music of Kasai Allstars, Konono No.1 and other Congotronics bands, recorded by 26 indie rock and electronic musicians, including a.o. Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Andrew Bird, Juana Molina, Shackleton, Megafaun, Aksak Maboul, Mark Ernestus and others.
In 2011, Konono No.1 took part in the Congotronics vs Rockers project, a "superband" including ten Congolese and ten indie rock musicians (also including members of Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Kasai Allstars, Skeletons and Juana Molina), who collaborated to create a common repertoire and performed at 15 major festivals and venues in ten countries.
Konono No.1 have performed at major rock & electronic music festivals such as Coachella, ATP (at the invitation of the Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening), Sonar, The Big Chill, and in venues such as the Berghrain club in Berlin, Cafe Oto in London, where they recently recorded a memorable Boiler Room session.
Konono No.1 founder Mingiedi Mawangu died on April 15, 2015, at the age of 85. He had stopped touring with the band in the late 2000s, and had passed the torch to his son Augustin Makuntima Mawangu.
2016 sees the release of a new album, Konono N°1 meets Batida
Les Inrocks premiere new music video by Konono N°1 meets Batida, just ahead of K1's new tour.
Les Inrockuptibles premiere the new video by Konono n°1 & Batida, and are dubbing them "Purveyors of Joy"....
New album out in Europe now!
Crammed Discs are happy to announce the new album by Konono n°1 !
He was 85. He founded Konono No.1 in the 1960s and invented his own electrified likembe, which gave Konono No.1 its distinctive sound. He led the band and toured with them until a few years ago.
... by London-based live blog Londonears
30% discount on selected Congotronics CDs & LPs ! Only until July 30th!
10 Congolese and 10 indie artists in 6 countries are currently swapping files to prepare this incredible project.
The exceptional tour by the collaborative ensemble featuring Konono N°1, Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Kasai Allstars, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Skeletons is taking shape!