Tropicalism 2.0 by Congotronics International – RFI

Congotronics International is a stage project before it is a discographic one. It is the meeting between musicians from both hemispheres around the traditional-modern music in Kinshasa (DRC). Together, these musicians lay the foundation for a “groovalization” of the world and its music. Meeting with Marc Hollander, the head of the label Crammed who initiated, followed and supported this project, a project that is the subject of an album, Where’s The One ?.

“The first album by Congolese Konono N ° 1 with us was called Congotronics”, says Marc Hollander, head of Crammed Discs, as if to anchor this new release from the Brussels label in time. For the record, we were then in January 2005 and the name of this album that reunited us with the sound of one of the most astonishing traditional-modern groups in the capital of the DRC, almost 30 years after their first and unique recordings by Bernard Treton for the Musiques collection urbaines à Kinshasadulabel Ocora, would be a flagship collection for the Belgian company with albums by Konono N ° 1, Kasaï AllStars and collections that brought together formations from Kinshasa or Lubumbashi in the southeastern part of the country.

Traditional-modern music

For some aficionados, including Vincent Kenis, a fan of Congolese music and a close collaborator of Marc Hollander, Konono N ° 1 and some other groups breathed a new dimension into the “traditional” oxymoron, as they did not content themselves with electrifying their music, they made them penetrate the field of contemporary, futuristic and popular music at the same time, by creating their own sound system.

This experimental electric music developed from and around traditional motifs played on electrified likembés (tumpianon), in perfect synchronicity, and gave a great place to “Do It Yourself” which liberated the senses and creation in our hearts in our hemisphere from the 70’s .

Their sense of recovery and what is now called, in eloquent English, “recycling”, forced a sound that from album release to album release opened up horizons for musicians from deviant music scenes, around the world, from rock to electro. Björk invites them to Earth Intruders, a song produced by Timbaland and Danja, and the first single from Volta, her seventh studio album released in 2007.

This is how Congotronics International was born

In 2010, the Belgian record company Tradi-Mods vs Rockers produced an album with covers, remixes and interpretations signed by 26 artists or groups (Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Animal Collective, Aksak Maboul …) “so that they concretely prove their love for this music “entrusts Marc Hollander.

The title of the album humorously diverts the rivalry between mods and rockers who polarized English youth in the 1960s and 1970s, except that here “it is a matter of Congolese traditional-mod (erne) musicians and rockers around the world” says Marc Hollander . “We then tried to organize a real collaboration on stage between these musicians from both worlds”, says the one who started alone “like Don Quijote, with only support from a handful of festivals (Les Vieilles Charrues, Le Fuji Rock in Japan …) as believed in this project on paper “in the formation of the group and the development of a tour. Congotronics International was born.

The excitement is there, both during the first distance work sessions during which skeletons of pieces develop, and during the rehearsal week in Brussels, at 19, between musicians from Deerhoof, Kasaï AllStars, Konono N ° 1, Skeletons, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Juana Molina. “The Congolese then invented melodies to rhythms offered to them by rock musicians and vice versa. Everyone wanted to play everything. A real wall of sounds that we channeled, organized together.”

“More than a living …”

During the tour that follows, all concerts are recorded in multiple tracks. Greg Saunier, Deerhoof’s drummer, mixes these sources as he would with studio recordings. But for Marc Hollander, the project cannot be limited to capturing a live event, no matter how hybrid. “I had initiated during the tour, some free days, some improvisation sessions in small groups, which gave us material to work with later. John Dieterich, the Deerhoof guitarist who finished the album with me, for example, created three pieces from these fantastic recordings. It is another aspect of the album that sometimes flirts with people, between Congolese guitars, rock guitars and likembés. ”

Note that the confrontation between the two worlds will cause some rhythmic misunderstandings. “Sometimes we had to agree to define where the first beat was, hence the title of the album (Where is the One)” Marc Hollander explains before adding: “Juana Molina had to dance one of her titles in 7 bars for to share rhythm with the Congolese who did not hear it in the same way. It is much more than a ping-pong “.

In a time of trials of intentions for cultural acquisition and identity limitations, this album draws the contours of a new tropicalism, a “groovalization” of the world and its music, capable of offering a playful response to depression. To be continued…

Congotronics InternationalWhere’s The One? (Crammed Discs / L’Autre Distribution / PIAS) 2022

Official website / Facebook

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More