"black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound"

This fourth full-length album by the legendary Congolese collective marks a new milestone in their already rich history: Kasai Allstars have now expanded their musical scope by incorporating their own personal approach to electronic music into their compositions. Black Ants Always Fly… is also the first album fully produced by Kasai Allstars guitarist Mopero Mupemba.

This time, their trademarks electric guitars, traditional drums and distorted thumb pianos are complemented by intricate electronic drum programming, perfectly adapted to Kasai Allstars’ peculiar rhythmic patterns drawn from traditional trance and ritual music. Add the Allstars exhilarating vocals, and you get a gamut of great textures and mindblowing polyrhythmics.

A number of the album’s lyrics are derived from myths and proverbs, and several songs revolve around the idea metaphorically expressed in the album title: unity is strength (more details below). An appropriate motto for a collective born from the reunion of five bands, all from the Kasai region, but originating from five different ethnic groups whose respective musical traditions and languages were thought to be incompatible until these musicians decided to pool their resources and work together, an inspiring example of collaboration transcending ethnic and language barriers.

Black Ants Always Fly…
features Kasai Allstars mainstays such as vocalist Muambuyi (whose voice and personality inspired the making of multi-awarded feature film Félicité, which features the band), vocalist and electric thumb piano player Kabongo, powerful singer Mi Amor, Tandjolo (vocals and lokombe slit drum), and Bayila Tshilumba (xylophone), as well as several membrane/buzz drum players and backing vocalists. Wonderful young vocalist Bijou makes a notable first appearance on several tracks. As for guitarist/producer Mopero Mupemba, he also took care of programming, assisted by sound engineer Papy Atuke.

Since the release of their first tracks in 2005, their sound struck the imagination of artists and music lovers worldwide, and was particularly praised by avant-rock, electronic & hip hop musicians and media, who viewed it as a kind of ‘primal rock’, an accidental blend of traditional trance and avant-garde. Kasai Allstars number the likes of Björk, ?uestlove, Saul Williams and Juana Molina among their devoted admirers.

The album was fully recorded in Kinshasa (DRC), and was mixed in Brussels by Greg Bauchau and Vincent Kenis.

Given the situation, nobody knows when Kasai Allstars will be able to perform outside of the Congo. We’ll have to make up for this by watching the music video they’ve scripted and shot near Kinshasa… Several remixes of tracks from the album are in the works, more news soon.

KASAI ALLSTARS  black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound - on vinyl, digital & CD - out  May 7th, 2021 on Crammed Discs

More about the album

In Black Ants Always Fly… the group once again draw material for their songs from traditional music played in the communities they originated from in the Kasai region, such as the Luba, the Songye and the Tetela ethnic groups. However, this time around, guitarist/producer Mopero Mupemba (who wrote about half of the songs) also looked for melodic ideas in neighbouring areas, such as the Bandundu region, therefore bringing different colours to the album.

The album title is a collage of two traditional proverbs (incidentally, ‘One bangle makes no sound’ is strangely reminiscent of a famous zen koan), who both express the idea that ‘Unity Makes Strength’ — a phrase which happens to be the national motto of… Bolivia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Georgia, Haiti and more. Unity and mutual support are the key to resolving many difficult situations, to attaining goals that are inaccessible to a single person. The lyrics to the song Ooloh, a War Dance for Peace illustrate this with a telling anecdote. Mopero explains: “The inspiration for this song comes from a village in the Sankuru province. When there’s a problem among the villagers, they look for a peaceful solution by performing a specific war dance, bearing weapons in their hands. It’s a dance which used to signal the end of hostilities, and serves nowadays to solve conflicts”.

On a different note, let’s mention the explanation of the song Musungu Elongo Paints His Face White To Scare Small Children: “In certain villages of the Basongye people, someone occasionally plays the part of a traditional character named Musungu Elongo. He covers his face with white clay to scare naughty little children. He runs after them and threatens to devour them if they don’t behave… and if they don’t give him candies and nuts”.
Abstracts of all the song lyrics are included in the album booklet.

More about Kasai Allstars

So Kasai Allstars are a Kinshasa-based collective consisting of fifteen musicians from five ensembles, all originating from the Kasai region (a Congolese province of the size of France). They draw their songs from festive & ritual music which used to be played in the bush before being banned, because of the allegedly scandalous aspects of the erotic dances and the re-enacted pagan trance rituals, which were viewed as being unholy, even satanic.

As mentioned, Kasai Allstars were warmly welcomed since their first appearance on the western music scene. Their music was described by enthusiastic journalists as “My Bloody Valentine produced by Lee Perry“, or “James Brown played by Harry Partch“… (see press quotes below).

Kasai Allstars timeline:

• 2005: release of the Congotronics 2 multi-artist album/DVD, containing 5 tracks by Kasai Allstars and their associated bands, all produced, recorded & mixed (just like the band’s following albums) by Belgian musician/producer Vincent Kenis.

• 2008: full debut album, In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into A Swimming Fish And Ate The Head Of His Enemy By Magic

• 2010: Crammed Discs put together Tradi-Mods Vs. Rockers, a multi-artist tribute album to the music of Kasai Allstars, Konono No1 and other Congotronics bands. On this occasion Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Juana Molina, Shackleton, Jolie Holland, Aksak Maboul and others chose to record tributes to the music of Kasai Allstars.

• 2011: Kasai Allstars took part in the Congotronics vs Rockers project, a «supergroup» including ten Congolese and ten indie rock musicians collaborating to create a common repertoire. Fifteen performances took place around Europe and Japan.

• 2014: Beware The Fetish, a double album containing over 100 minutes of wild, trance-inducing, raw intensity, probing deeper into the musicians’ repertoires and styles with the help of a large array of guests. The album appeared in the best-of-2014 lists in publications such as MOJO, Uncut, The Quietus etc.

• 2017: Around Félicité, an album containing music from the soundtrack for multi-awarded feature film Félicité, which tells the fictional story of a woman modeled by French-Senegalese director Alain Gomis on the personality of Kasai Allstars vocalist Muambuyi. The band wrote and performed most of the Félicité soundtrack, and appears onscreen playing their own part. Muambuyi’s voice is omnipresent, and is being heard everytime Félicité (played by Congolese actress Vero Tshanda) sings in the bars of Kinshasa, backed by Kasai Allstars.

• Between 2007 and 2018, Kasai Allstars have performed at major festivals including Glastonbury, Roskilde, Eurockéennes, Couleur Café, Vieilles Charrues, Paleo, Fuji Rock, North Sea Jazz etc. and their live show is really something not to be missed. The wild, driving rhythms and exhilarating vocals are further enhanced by spectacular dancing.

In the press

Endlessly inventive... their blend of bustling thumb pianos, ecstatic chants and otherworldly rhythms is a long, gleeful trip into the surreal

Rolling Stone, US

The real future primitive... Primeval rock, made of vocal stratas, offbeat rhythms, able to suck in anything that comes into contact with its great, ritualized whirlwind. This music is invincible

Les Inrockuptibles, France

They have that sames dynamism [as Konono N°1] plus a similarly brutal rhythm section which sounds like a billion wasps playing Sister Ray in your brain…Imagine if My Bloody Valentine had been produced by Lee Perry

Mojo, UK

A vital addition to the Congotronics series, and anyone who’s enjoyed the series so far needs to hear it… an excellent, diverse recording that adds a fantastic new chapter to an already fascinating story

Pitchfork, US

A moving testament to the human capacity for improvisation and co-operation that somehow persists amid the turbulent circumstances of the Congo… this amazing album unfolds with a sensuous logic that cannot be constrained

The Observer, UK

The Allstars continue the Congolese tradition of producing some of the wildest and most unusual sounds on the planet… exhilarating, edgy and at times downright spooky - especially when played very loud, as recommended

The Guardian, UK


KASAI ALLSTARS - Beware the Fetish
Beware the Fetish
KASAI ALLSTARS - black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound
black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound
KASAI ALLSTARS - black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound (album)
black ants always fly together, one bangle makes no sound (album)
KASAI ALLSTARS - In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into...
In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into...