In concert: Konono No. 1 at Black Cat
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.)
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.
July 23, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories: In concert | Tags: Konono No. 1
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