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Thursday, December 5

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Concert Thu Apr 19 2007

Sonic Engineering 1°1

Play louder. That's the imperative, and we’ve had a half-plus century of glorious racket that’s come of it. Let all that have ears hear, and let them that hear move their feet.

So it was for Congolese cab driver and musician Mawangu Mingiedi when he started the group Konono N°1 over 25 years ago. Playing villages and parties, Mawangu and company encountered the challenge of making their music audible for larger gatherings and competing to be heard over the din of urban Kinshasa. And that proverbial mother of invention dictated that they scrounge and salvage and solder together the means of getting it across. Resorting to a ramshackle remedy of plugging-in, they wired up their acoustic likembés (or thumb pianos), built a clattering drumkit from scrap metal, and rigged their own DIY soundsystem for broadcasting block-party rhythms to all within earshot.

As far as Congolese music goes, Konono's style of native "trance" music pre-dates recent afro-pop sensations such as soukous and highlife by centuries. Theirs is a celebratory music, rooted in the ages-old tradition of "praise" songs, devotionals honoring the spirits of the departed. But with amplification comes the possibility of distortion, especially when you're working with equipment designed for more rudimentary purposes — the sort of megaphones designed for little more than squawking announcements at a train station, for instance. Pumped through a jerry-rigged PA system, the music’s polyrhythmic density taxes the channels until its timbres and tonalities blur and merge into a overwhelming mass of percussive sound — a fuzzed-out, skronky ur-funk, if you will. By force of sheer power, volume, and its own rootsy rawness, it’s a sound that can subsume and penetrate the listener to their corporeal essence. And if it doesn't prompt you to at least bob or shake your pelvic nethers, then maybe your friends should hail for a medic.

The widely-distributed release of Konono's 2005 CD Congotronics became a surprise cross-over hit with indie music heads. Their music has since been covered by The Ex, and they reportedly will be making an appearance on Björk's forthcoming album. They'll be playing at the Empty Bottle next Tuesday night. They don't make it stateside too often, and seeing them in a smaller venue guarantees a maximized acoustic experience. Tickets are $20, and the show is scheduled to kick off at 10pm.

[video]: Konono N°1 - "Lufuala Ndonga"

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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