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In concert: Konono No. 1 at Black Cat

konono no. 1Konono No. 1's formula proved very effective at the Black Cat on Thursday. (All photos by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

By Mark Jenkins

On the new "Assume Crash Position,'' only the second studio album of Konono No. 1's 30-year career, the Congolese group tries a few variations on the sound that belatedly became a global cult sensation. But the six-person lineup that performed Thursday night at the Black Cat didn't mess with the formula: polyrhythmic percussion, call-and-response vocals and chiming electric likembes (thumb pianos). This combination, which adapts traditional trance music to instruments forged in a Kinshasa auto junkyard, is primitive, repetitive and very effective.

(Buzz remains, literally if not figuratively, after the jump.)

konono no. 1

Led by likembe player Augustin Mingiedi, son of founder Mawangu Mingiedi, the group performed for almost 90 minutes. The chants varied, roundabout patterns yielded to one-note solos and musicians came and went. (There were always at least four on stage.) The band occasionally stopped, taking brief breaks signaled when singer-percussionist Pauline Mbuka Nsiala danced away from her array of cowbells. Aside from the drums, the instruments were homemade, and plugged into a low-tech sound system that gave them a crypto-electronic tone.

The club was less than half full, perhaps because some local Konono fans are still sweating the memory of the group's July 2006 show at a Black Cat that was temporarily without air conditioning. More likely, the group's vogue has simply passed. But the musicians didn't seem to mind, returning to play an encore for a small but passionate remnant of the crowd. Konono No. 1 may not longer be a buzz band, but its buzzing clatter still mesmerizes a devoted few.

konono no. 1

konono no. 1

By Mark Jenkins  |  July 23, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Konono No. 1  
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