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Live Reviews

Konono No. 1 / Maldita Veindidad
July 23, 2006

By Ernest Barteldes
Central Park Summerstage
New York New York

What you hear from Congo's Konono Nr. 1 is mostly traditional Bazembo Trance music. You do feel, however, that the sound is strangely chaotic. The reason for that is that in addition to the likembé (thumb piano), the band uses a makeshift sound system that includes homemade microphones made from discarded magnets, salvaged amplifiers and old public address megaphones. They appeared at Central Park on the final leg of their U.S. tour. The audience automatically seemed to take a liking of the group, who despite the simplicity of the music had a lively beat that got everybody moving from the first few moments.

Konono nr. 1 uses both treble and bass likemes, so the bass sound you hear comes not from an electric bass (as I assumed) but instead is originated from the African instrument.

The group, which did not bring the dancers that are usually part of their troupe (the label's publicist could not explain why that happened) began with an extended version of "Lufuna Ndonga", the tune that opens their self-titled CD Crammed. On a live setting, the tune had a close resemblance to sht sound of Rio's street Carnaval music. The second tune had a faster tempo, but after a while the music became a bit repetetive. African Trance is clearly intended as a dance beat, not for a rich listening experience.

"We dedicate this evening to peace, dance and music, no violence", said the vocalist of Mexico's Maldita Veincidad as they took the stage to the cheers of a rowdy, loud group of fans. The press area became a mosh pit as fans were thrown into it, and a young woman was led into the first aid area with a bloody mouth as she was elbowed by an over-excited fan. This did not faze the band, and they played a high-energy set that included ska, norteña-inspired rock and plain rock songs.

The band got a loud cheer as they dedicated one of the songs to the people who participated in the May 1 immigrant demonstrations around this country. They also dabbled into reggae in a tune that told the story of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence. The saxophonist often played two horns at the same time, and often switched to the horn and even picked up a guitar every now and then. The band also went into a Brazilian-inspired moment, and invited members of the audience to get up on stage (to the desperation of the security guards, who were having a hard time keeping fans away from the area.

Maldita Veincidad certainly pleased its longtime fans during their set, and won a number of new ones with its high-quality, energetic music. Let us hope that this is not just a reunion tour, but a full-scale comeback. We need more bands like this around.