Konono Nr. 1 live in Amsterdam @Minimal Africa FestivalApril 11, 2013
in the sixties musician Mingledi Mawangu erects Konono Nr. 1. in southern Congo, near the border of Angola. Later the band settles in the capital Kinshasa.
There they are noticed in 1978 by a Frenchman who records them for the renowned label Ocora. When Tony Van der Eecken, music programmer of the Brussels Bozar, encounters Konono on one of his journeys in the Congo, he decides to bring the group to the Low Countries for a tour. Dutch punk band The Ex released recordings of their first performances in Holland on Terp Records. Today they are connected to the Belgian label Crammed Discs, that releases their music in the series ‘Congotronics’.
Last weekend Konono Nr. 1 performed during the World Music Festival 2013 at the new centre for modern and experimental music; Muziekgebouw aan het IJ/Bim Huis in Amsterdam. Normally this center operates as a platform for ‘serious’ music with the spectators seated on chairs. Not so when Konono Nr. 1 was on stage. It took just a few minutes before people got up from their seats and started dancing in the aisles.
It was therefore impossible to sit still during the swinging performance. The band played a tight set on instruments made from discarded household and amplified likembe. The music of Konono No 1 connects city and jungle, they play ritual trance music for special occasions. When they started in Kinshasha they had to drown out the noise of the city, so they amplified their likembe, also known as a thumb piano, a series of metal blades mounted on a sound box. The trance repertoire receives through the additional distortion an extra dimension.
The name Konono Nr. 1 means as much as to move the dead. Whether they pull that off is debatable but their long spun performance last Friday transformed the hall into a swirling dance club.
Later the same night the American DJ/blogger/anthropologist Brian Shimkovitz aka Awesome Tapes From Africa did the same thing upstairs in the lounge during a magical set of obscure, fascinating African music, mainly from cassettes.