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World Music CD Reviews Africa

CONGOTRONICS

By Bruce Miller
Published June 27, 2006

Buzz-n-Rumble from the Urb-n-Jungle
Crammed Discs

The ecstatic public reception of the first Congotronics album, featuring the infectious, albeit brutally distorted grooves of the Congo’s Konono No 1, goes a long way toward proving that ethnic music does not have to be watered-down, over-produced or otherwise “legitimized” with the appearance of some respected Western star to be enjoyed by a larger audience. It only needs to be heard! And while Konono, who have been around for some 25 years, deserve all the attention they’re getting, their recent exposure has allowed for some luminosity pointed deeper into that war-torn, resource-gutted region of Central Africa. Congotronics 2, aside from featuring another Konono track, digs into Kinshasa’s wealth of electro-traditional bands and comes up shining like a diamond in the mud. This is folk-electronica as trance, done by masters of traditional Congolese song form, cranked through DIY equipment, thereby illuminating certain melodic aspects while obliterating others. Likembes, guitars, vocals and the occasional accordion carry repeated melodic patterns atop percussion in a fashion not much different from those classic Nonesuch thumb piano albums from the ‘70s. Yet, the electricity enhances recurrence and induces hours of helpless joy.