The artful dance music of Congolese collective Kokoko! manifests itself in a genre-averse mix of strange rhythms, lo-fi electronic textures, and relentless grooves all played on a variety of homemade instruments which the band created out of trash from the street and scrap materials. After coming together at a block party in the capital city of Kinshasa, the group began collaborating with French electronic producer Débruit to enhance their sound and began releasing a series of singles in 2017 and 2018 leading up to the release of their full-length debut, Fongola, in 2019. Although the collective also includes dancers and performance artists, the core of Kokoko! consists of enigmatic vocalist Makara Bianko and instrumentalists Dido Oweke, Boms Bomolo, and Love Lokombe, a trio of scrappy, inventive players who grew up together in the city's Ngwaka neighborhood. Lacking the money and resources to acquire proper instruments, the three friends began inventing their own unique noisemakers out of whatever was available. Single-string guitars were cobbled out of spare wood and tin cans, a vocal talk-box was wired out of an old cassette player, and various bottles, typewriters, and scraps of metal were fashioned into percussion instruments. When they paired up with Bianko and several other local artists at a street party, they created a unique aesthetic that reflected the gritty and politically tumultuous climate of one of Africa's largest cities. When Frenchman Débruit entered the picture, he helped produce the band's sound in the studio, adding an electronic flair and joining Kokoko! as its fifth member. They released their first single, "Tongos'a" in 2017 and followed up with additional tracks "Azo Toke" and "Liboso" over the next year. Their debut album, Fongola, was released globally by the Transgressive label in June 2019.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Electronic - Released July 5, 2019 | Transgressive
Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Qobuzissime
After two EPs and a breakthrough European tour, this Kinshasa combo now face their biggest challenge yet: a full-length album. KOKOKO! consists of two DIY musicians (with instruments made from cans, typewriters and junkyard scrap), the vocalist Makara Bianco also known as the Lingwara Devil, as well as French producer Xavier Thomas, aka Débruit (author of the mini-hit Nigeria What?) who was immediately attracted by their “experimental side”. He says, “It’s not your stereotypical African music. They want to break with the past and the traditional Congolese rumba. There are no limits, they’re not afraid of anything”.It’s this freedom and creativity born from constraint that can be heard in Fongola, with its sonic collision of polyrhythms, Western harmonies, guitars and mbiras, jerry cans and a TR-808. The formula is designed for live performances, but it is just as effective here: street samples, a 4/4 techno beat, catchy lyrics and earthshaking base lines all have an entrancing effect. The album was recorded in makeshift studios in Kinshasa and Brussels and was then put together in Anderlecht by Débruit, who describes it as “a giant electronic puzzle with no blueprint and pieces that don’t fit”. He couldn’t have put it any better - by combining so many sounds and letting them clash together, KOKOKO! have achieved a state of permanent chaos. And that’s exactly what makes this project so exciting. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz