Compelling beats from the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.
This is technically Kokoko!'s first EP, but it includes two recycled tracks: "Azo Toke," which dropped last July, and "L.O.V.E.," featuring silky spoken chants from Rachel Nyangombe. Three new songs draw us further into Kokoko!'s world, beginning with the atmospheric opener, "Blvd Lumumba." There's also a mid-tempo stomper, "Affaire A Mbongo," and the loping "Longola Ye Kupe." They sound both new and familiar, recalling Afro-European electro-acoustic collaborations like Owiny Sigoma Band. Kokoko!'s lead singer, Makara Bianko, draws comparison to other Congolese alternative musicians, like Jupiter Bokondji and the rapper Baloji, but with more youthful swagger.
In experimental music produced in post-colonial areas like Democratic Republic Of The Congo, there is little chance that a project like this would reach Europe without the involvement of a well-connected influencer. In this case, that person is the French artist Xavier Thomas, AKA Débruit, whose glitchy production aesthetic is all over this EP.
With cross-cultural collaboration projects like this, narrative and visual presentation can be more important to success than the music. In this case, the music serves as a compelling soundtrack to a narrative of DIY creativity, street-smart survival and alternative, eccentric and sexualized Kinshasa street culture. Democratic Republic Of The Congo has been in deep economic crisis since the 1980s, yet the hits of popular artists like Fally Ipupa or Robinio Mundibo reach far beyond its borders. Kokoko! is all about celebrating the margins. This aesthetic is the reason their sounds stretches internationally.