Tag: KOKOKO!

New Video: Crammed Discs to Re-issue Zazou Bikaye’s Forward-Thinking Electro Take on Afrobeat/Afrofunk Originally Released in the 80s

Tracing their origins back to an encounter between Congolese vocalist and composer Bony Bikaye, French musician and producer Hector Zazou and modular synth act CY1, Zazou Bikaye released a groundbreaking Afro pop/experimental electronic album with their 1983 full-length debut Noir et Blanc, an album that has since garnered cultish devotion by music cognoscenti, musicians and fans.

After the release of Noir et Blanc, Zazou Bikaye turned into a proper band that started to develop and hone their own special brand of digital Afrobeat/Afrofunk. Zazou took on writing and programming duties while Bikaye expanded on the extroverted side of his vocal stylings. They then set out to record a large batch of material with five tracks eventually being released in 1985 as the 32-minute mini album Mr. Manager, an effort released to acclaim through Crammed Discs in Europe and through Pow Wow in Japan and the States. The act toured Europe and played a couple of shows in New York — and two of the album’s tracks “Angel” and “Nostalgie” became underground club hits across the States and Europe.

With a backing band that featured Philipe “Pinpin” de la Croix Herpin (woodwinds), Tuxedomoon’s Luc van Lieshout (trumpet and harmonica), Vincent Kenis (guitar), Chris Jouris (percussion), Bigoune (percussion), Mwamba Kasuba (backing vocals), Nicole MT (backing vocals) M’Bombo K (backing vocals) and Marc Hollander (sax), the Hollander, Zazou Kenis produced sessions recorded between 1985 and 1986 were supposed to be appear on a full-length album. But as it turned out, the members of Zazou Bikaye moved on and recorded an entirely different album of material, 1988’s Guilty. Some of the tracks from those 1985-1986 sessions came out as remixes but most of the material was left aside, unfinished.

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the expanded and remastered reissue of Mr. Manager features the mini-album’s original five tracks plus nine rediscovered tracks recorded during those abandoned 1985-1986 sessions. And to celebrate the occasion, Zazou Bikaye and Crammed Disc re-released album single “Nostalgie. Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated blocks of synths, thumping polyrhythm, call-and-response vocals, an ebullient, Branford Marsalis-like sax solo and an enormous, crowd pleasing hook, “Nostalgie” may strike some listeners as a sleek and mischievous synthesis of 80s Peter Gabriel synth pop, Man Machine-era Kraftwerk and Fela Kuti. But interestingly enough, it actually presages the wildly experimental dance pop coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — i.e. Kokoko! and Tshegue among a growing list of others.

Mr. Manager also featured a colorful album cover art and the recently released video for “Nostalgie” features animation by Sylvia Baldan that draws from the album’s artwork, which she originally designed.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays KOKOKO! Release a Cinematically Shot and Feverish Visual for Brooding Album Single “Zala Mayele”

Led by Makara Biano and prolific French producer débruit, the pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective KOKOKO! is inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among their hometown’s young people. Much like young people everywhere, Kinshasa’s young people have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society they perceive as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and much-needed change. The collective and their counterparts have done this with a fearless, in-your-face, punk-rock sort of attitude and ethos. That shouldn’t be surprising as the rapidly rising collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! — with the collective viewing themselves as the sound and voice of a bold, new generation defiantly and urgently banging on the doors and walls, and yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” 

Speaking of DIY, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled flotsam and jetsam and recovered junk. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, reclaimed wood and an old ping-pong table. Unsurprisingly, the act’s creative processes is centered round the notion that poverty and the desperately urgent need to survive often fuels creativity. Now,  as you may recall the Congolese collective exploded into the national scene with their debut EP 2017’s Tokoliana, a forward-thinking, urgent effort featuring a difficult to pigeonhole sound with elements of disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and the region’s traditional music that seemed to come from an alien yet familiar near dystopian future in which the ghetto and the club are intertwined. 

Tokoliana’s follow-up TONGOS’A EP further explored themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland, in which the average person may be forced on absolute certainties — the small, deeply human pleasures we, in the First World sometimes take for granted. 

Last year’s full-length debut Fongola was released to critical acclaim from the likes of NPR, The Guardian, Mixmag, Mojo, Dazed and i-D Magazine. The Congolese collective made their live, Stateside debut with a tour stop here in NYC, as well as an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which helped them gain a following here in the States.  

Building upon their rapidly growing profile, the Kinshasa-based collective start off their 2020 with the latest single off their critically applauded full-length debut, the percussive “Zala Mayele.” Centered around layers of thumping polyrhythm, a propulsive bass line, a looping sample of a gorgeous string section and distorted vocals, the track may arguably be the most brooding and atmospheric tracks on the entire album — while still being remarkably dance floor friendly. 

“‘Zala Mayele’s lyrics are about the dangers in Kinshasa’s streets (thieves, sorcerers, gangs, and more) and the importance of distinguishing what is what, what is hidden under what shape, in disguise and around the corner, in the shadows.” The cinematically shot video for “Zala Mayele” follows a young boy — Issa — as he wanders the streets of his hometown on his own. During his journey, he encounters and is threatened by a variety of dangers booth real and imagined that blind, titillate and confuse him. These dangers “little by little, he will be able to notice and take control with a trip on the other side of the mirror,” the band says in press notes. 

New Video: TSHEGUE Return with a Dark and Cinematic Visual for Politically-Charged New Single “M’Benga Bila”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the French-Congolese electro pop act TSHEGUE, and as you may recall the act — Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-born, Paris-based frontwoman Faty Fy Savanet and bandmate, Cuban-French producer Nicolas ‘Dakou’ Dacunha — derives its name from a childhood nickname given to Savanet, a Congolese slang term for the boys who gather on Kinshasha’s streets, and the act can trace its origins to when Savanet was introduced to Dacunha. 

Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor thematically explored the challenges faced by the African Diaspora paired with Dacunha’s forward-thinking, hypnotic, club-banging productions which features elements of Afropunk, garage rock and electro-clash. Survivor EP was championed by the likes of Mura Masa and Noisey, which led to a growing international profile. And adding to a growing profile, the video for “Munapoto,” which was shot on the Ivory Coast received a UK Music Video Award nomination alongside videos for tUnE-YaRdS and Chaka Khan.

The Telema EP, the much-anticipated follow-up to Survivor EP was released earlier this month, and from EP single “The Wheel,” the duo further cemented their growing reputation or crafting swaggering, forward-thinking, genre snd style-blurring bangers. Centered around a percussive production featuring ricocheting industrial clang and clatter, stuttering tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive blasts of bass synth and Savanet’s commanding flow, the song — to my ears, at least — bore a resemblance to JOVM mainstays Kokoko! but with a punk rock flair. 

Telema EP’s second attention single “M’Benga Bila” features a hypnotic, genre-blurring production that’s one part trap, one part grime, one part electroclash, one part club anthem centered around a hypnotic production featuring looped shimmering guitar, thumping tweeter and woofer rocking beats, brief blasts of bluesy electric guitar, and wobbling and arpeggiated synths. Savanet’s self-assured, commanding flow paired with a call-and-response vocal section during the song’s rousing hook imbue the song with the urgency of our sociopolitical moment as it’s both a call to action and an expression of weary frustration and bitter rage. Interestingly, the track’s title translates from Savanet’s native Lingala into English as “Call the Police!” And as the band explains ‘It’s a protest, a scream from a society that still struggles to accommodate the differences and the freedoms of all. The threat ‘I’m gonna call the cops!’ for us represents a systematic formula, which too often forces the point of rupture between two people, the end of a dialgoue.”

Directed by Sacha Barbin, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “M’Benga Bila” was filmed Paris’ 18th arrondissement’s Goutte D’Or area, one of the city’s most multicultural neighborhoods, which coincidentally is where TSHEGUE’s Faty Sy Savanet has called home. The video is a partial tribute to acclaimed French director Leos Carax’s 1986 cult film Mauvais Sang as the video focuses on shady, underworld activities. 

New Video: Speed Through the Streets of Kinshasa in Visuals for TSHEGUE’s Thumping “The Wheel”

Born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Faty Sy Savanet and her family emigrated to Paris when she was eight. In her early twenties, a mutual friend connected Savanet with Robert Wyatt collaborator Bertrand Burgalat, whose label, Tricatel has been referenced as a major influence of the likes of Air and Daft Punk.

Burgalat encouraged and enabled many of Savanet’s formative musical experiments, including a short-lived voodoo ‘n’ roll band. Interestingly, Savanet’s latest project TSHEGUE, which derives its name from her childhood nickname, a Congolese slang term for the boys who gather on Kinshasa’s streets, can trace its origins to when she met her bandmate, French-Cuban producer Nicolas ‘Dakou’ Dacunha.

Their debut EP, 2017’s Survivor thematically explored the challenges faced by the African Diaspora paired with Dacunha’s forward-hthinking, hypnotic, club-banging productions which features elements of Afropunk, garage rock and electro-clash. Survivor EP was championed by the likes of Mura Masa and Noisey, which led to a growing international profile. And adding to a growing profile, the video for “Munapoto,” which was shot on the Ivory Coast received a UK Music Video Award nomination alongside videos for tUnE-YaRdS and Chaka Khan.

“The Wheel,” the first bit of new material from the duo since the release of Survivor EP, and I’m certain that it’ll further cement TSHEGUE’s growing reputation for crafting swaggering, forward-thinking, genre and style-blurring bangers. Centered around a wildly exuberant, hypnotic and percussive production featuring ricocheting industrial clang and clatter, stuttering, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive blasts of bass synth paired with Savanet’s commanding flow, the song bears a resemblance to JOVM mainstays Kokoko! as it sounds as though it comes from a sweaty, post-apocalyptic future where the club and the ghetto are one and the same — but delivered with a decidedly punk aggressiveness.

Directed by Renaud Barret, who was also behind the Africa Express documentary featured Damon Albarn, Peter Hook and Tony Allen, the recently released video for “The Wheel” was filmed in a gorgeously cinematic black and white amidst the chaotic traffic of Savanet’s hometown, follows members of the local, mixed-gender, teenaged skating club, Club Etoile Rollers hitching rides on the backs of speeding busses, cars, motorbikes through the heaving megalopolis’ crowded streets. Speaking about the video Barret says ““An ordinary day in Kinshasa. I’m in a taxi on Lumumba Boulevard, when suddenly I’m in the middle of this gang of kids slaloming between cars. We exchange thumbs up, signs of complicity, rolling side by side for a moment. One of them spots my camera, and comes closer to shout ‘Hey sir! Do you wanna shoot something crazy?’ I couldn’t refuse. This is the magic of a limitless city where each and every day brings incredible spontaneous possibilities. Now as I watch the beaming faces of these kids, thrown at full speed on their crumbling rollers, almost out of control, intoxicated by danger and only protected by their faith in good luck; I can only see a metaphor for the Congo’s situation. But also a middle finger to a society trying to maintain an illusion that everything should be controlled, supervised. These free riders remind us that life must be lived in the present.”

The duo has begun to make a name for themselves with commanding live performances, including sets at Lowlands and The Great Escape Festivals and from what I understand the act will be announcing a series of headlining UK live shows to coincide with the release of more new material.

 

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people. Unsurprisingly, these young people, much like young people everywhere have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society that they’ve perceived as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and change. And they’ve begun to do so with an fearless, in-your-face, almost punk rock-like attitude. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!”

I’ve written quite a bit about the collective, and as you may know, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk, flotsam and jetsam and claptrap. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wound and a ping pong table. Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective exploded into the international scene with their debut EP Tokoliana an urgent, forward-thinking, avant-grade-like effort centered around a sound that nods at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — from a sweaty and grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. It was arguably one of the most unique and exciting debuts I’ve come across in some time and unsurprisingly as a result, EP single and title track “Tokoliana” was one of my favorite singles last year.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Congolese collective’s TONGOS’A EP was released last year, and the EP found the members of the collective further exploring themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland — sometimes being forced to focused on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns. TONGOS’A‘s first single, EP title track “Tongos’a” (which translates roughly into “’til the morning light” in English)” was a sweaty, sultry and raunchy banger, centered around skittering drum programming and African percussion which helped to further cement the song’s overall theme — the necessity of getting good sex.

“Azo Toke,” the Congolese collective’s first single of 2018 features a production consisting of explosive blasts of static and feedback, tribal percussion, thumping and stuttering, tweeter and woofer beats, glitchy bursts of synth, throbbing low end, call and response vocals and subtly shifting moods and tempos — and while seemingly post apocalyptic, the track will further cement the act’s inventive approach to dance music, in which they seamlessly mesh African traditions with forward-thinking, hyper modern production.

 

New Video: Congolese DIY Collective KOKOKO! Returns with a Raunchy Club Banger

Bordered by Central African Republic and South Sudan to its north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to its east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to its west; and the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest country by area in Africa and the eleventh largest by area in the entire world — and by with a population of 78 million people, the most populated officially Francophone country in the entire world, the fourth most populated nation in African and the seventeenth most populated country in the world.

Humans first settled within the expansive territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo roughly 90,000 years ago, although various Bantu speaking tribes began migrating into the region in the 5th century and again in the 10th century. From the 14th to the 19th century, the territory was split into three different territories — to the West, the Kingdom of Kongo ruled for close to 500 years; while the central and Eastern sections were ruled by the Luba and Lunda kingdoms, which ruled from roughly the 16th century to the 19th century.

In the 1870s, European exploration of the Congo region was first carried out and led by Henry Morton Stanley, who was sponsored by King Leopold II of Belgium and by 1885, Leopold had formally acquired the rights to the Congo territory, making the land his private property. Ironically naming the territory the Congo Free State, the colonial military unit the Force Publique forced much of the local population into producing rubber and from 1885-1908 millions of Congolese died from exploitation and disease. Despite initial reluctance, the Belgian government formally annexed the Free State and the territory became the Belgian Congo.

Between the late 1950s and mid 1960s, revolutionary movements swept much of Africa, reshaping the map; in fact, The Democratic Republic of the Congo achieved independence in June 1960 as the Republic of the Congo, with Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese nationalist, becoming the country’s first Prime Minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu, becoming the country’s first president. Within a few months, the provinces of Katanga, Moise-Tshombe and South Kasai attempted to secede and by September 1960, Lumumba was dismissed from office by Kasa-Vubu with encouragement by the US and Belgium after Lumumba sought assistance from the Soviet Union with what has since been known as the Congo Crisis. By mid September of that year, Lumumba was arrested by forces loyal to Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who gained de facto control of the country through a coup d’etat. By early 1961 Lumumba was executed by Belgian-led Katangese forces.

In 1965 Mobutu, who later renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko, officially came into power through a second coup d’etat, running the country, which he renamed as Zaire as a one-party state, with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the country’s sole legal party for more than 30 years. By the early 1990s, Sese Seko’s government had begun to weaken and by the middle of the decade, growing disenfranchisement among the country’s eastern Congolese Tutsi population led to Zaire’s invasion by their Tutsi-ruled neighbor Rwanda, which began the First Congo War and eventually led to the end of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32 year stranglehold on the country.

In May 1997, Laurent-Desire Kabila, a leader of South Kivu province-based Tutsi forces became President of the country and reverted the nation’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, tensions between Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence led to the Second Congo War from 1998-2003, which involved nine different African nations and 20 different armed groups and eventually resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Naturally, the decade long period of civil war and instability devastated the country and the larger region. And if you add several centuries of commercial and colonial exploitation, which continues to this very day, extreme poverty, inequality and inequity and a lack of infrastructure, you understandably wind up with a population that’s desperate and struggling to survive.

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people, who have begun to both openly question centuries-old norms and taboos and or openly denounce a society that they perceived as paralyzed by fear. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” The members of the collective operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk and claptrap — and they built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wood and a ping pong table. (If that isn’t punk as fuck, I don’t know what is.) Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective received international attention with their Tokoliana EP, an urgent, forward-thinking, way out in left field effort featuring a sound that nodded at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — but from a sweaty, grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. 

ICI released the Congolese collective’s second EP TONGOS’A late last year, and the EP finds the collective further exploring themes of survival in the desperate and uneasy political and social climate of their homeland — sometimes focusing on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns; in fact, the EP’s first track, title track “Tongos’a (which translates roughly into ’til the morning light”) is a sweaty and raunchy club banger on the necessity of getting laid properly, rooted around skittering drum programming, thumping beats and a looped guitar and bass line that’s derived from the Mongo tribe repertoire, making the song a mischievous mix of the old and the new. 

Directed by débruit, Markus Hofko, Renaud Barret, the recently released video for “Tongos’a” stars a local dance act “l’homme capote” comprised of Mbuyi Tickson, Makoka, and Riyana sweaty and grinding seductively to the song, capturing the song’s raunchy, club-friendly vibe.