Rhyme Report

Published on May 29th, 2019 | by Guest Editor

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Congo’s KOKOKO! share ‘Buka Dansa’ off their debut album Fongola

Today, Kinshasa collective KOKOKO! announce news of their extraordinary debut album, Fongola – alongside accompanying single ‘Buka Dansa’, premiered this morning on BBC 6 Music’s Breakfast Show with Lauren Laverne.

Discussing ‘Buka Dansa’, the group offered the following;
“’Buka Dansa’ means ‘dance till it breaks’, or ‘break the dance’ and Dido sings the song on a synthetic rhythm, where the riff from a self-made guitar moves with the melodies. The lyrics are psychedelic, and remember what’s good in life – putting that feeling parallel with a nice taste passing into your throat, like smoke, a digestion of good moments.”

KOKOKO! began in 2016 in Kinshasa. Electronic artist Débruit was in town working on a film soundtrack and began collaborating with Makara Bianko, a charismatic singer who performs with his dancers to electronic loops, and separately with a number of ingenious musical instrument creators and artists. They threw a spontaneous block party, and though many of them hadn’t known each other previously, the energy really clicked between Makara BiankoDébruitBoms BomoloDido Oweke,Love Lokombe and Bovic Mwepu (who has since passed away), and together they became the founding members of the group KOKOKO!, which is part of a wider collective of multidisciplinary artists.

Signed with independent label Transgressive (Flume, SOPHIE, Let’s Eat Grandma), their distorted polyrhythms and spontaneous lo-fi sounds provide a chaotic soundtrack to their home country. When most people think of culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s The Rumble in The Jungle fight of Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman and the accompanying Soul Power concert with James Brown in the 70s, Mobutu in his abacost and leopard print hat, les sapeurs in their elegant tailoring, and the king of Congolese rumba Papa Wemba. A faded vintage postcard. KOKOKO! represent the antithesis of tradition, and their debut album Fongola – which translates to “the key” – is a torrid, anarchic, youthful journey smashing a new path through modern life in Africa’s third most populous city.

Life in Kinshasa is tough. Since its inception three years ago the band have lost their drummer to lung cancer, a dancer from their wider collective to electrocution, had homes destroyed by police, safety concerns at election time, visa struggles and a lucky incident with a crocodile. Yet the subject matter of the album is far from a one dimensional lament about struggle and hardship. Their lyrics explore love, sorcery and magic, the need to take things slowly in life, greed and corruption and the importance of being heard and understood.

The kind of people who can afford imported guitars and drum kits in Kinshasa live very different lives to the people who make instruments out of sardine tins, water bottles and engine parts. Imitation wasn’t an option, which necessitated innovation. The resulting album is experimental electronic music, but it doesn’t fit neatly within any genre. Most of the sounds on this project can’t be replicated, as anyone trying to tune a one-string guitar made out of a bike brake and a powdered milk tin can attest to! What started as a financial challenge resulted in a creative advantage.

Being an artist gives you special privileges in Kinshasa because it’s seen as an important role, andFongola is an urgent and vitally important expression of the talent which is thriving and leading the way artistically from the toughest and most unlikely of places.

Fongola will be released on limited edition LP, CD and Cassette, with the band also making exclusiveKOKOKO! signed photographs available. The album can be pre-ordered from their official website.

To accompany the release, the band has announced an extensive world tour, which kicks off at All Points East in early June alongside Bon Iver, before the band return to the UK and Europe for November headline shows including shows at iconic spots such as London Fabric and Berlin Berghain. Tickets are available here.



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