Konono No.1 Konono No.1Assume Crash Position
We’re going to be honest, the ear of the western musical consumer isn’t used to the music of Konono No.1; it is complicated for everyday people to differentiate the band’s repertoire of songs. And in general, this happens with other African folklore trance music. However, this doesn’t make them less attractive. In the first place, because despite repeating structures that have little to do with conventional western music (until the 4 x 4 and the loop arrived), there is something familiar in them. This is because they are the forerunner of many of the rhythms that we listen to now, from techno to some Latin American styles like candombe or samba. And in the second place, because its spiritual origin makes it enter through other pores. The liturgical nature of bazombo rhythms (where the band’s repertoire comes from and the ethnic origin of its founder) places them in a place that is very remote for the conventionalisms of the western mind. Konono No.1’s music doesn’t try to move, to seek enjoyment. It seeks a trance, a much more primary state. Nevertheless, our “polluted” colonialist mind, in search of something similar to that trance, both is moved and enjoys itself. Beyond the curiosity that it awakens, it presses the last of the subconscious buttons, the most instinctive, the most animal.
Why is Konono No.1 and not any other folklore group that has had so much hype? We have to admit that this sort of the luthier meets the Diogenes syndrome sells these days, as ecology imposes itself as a moral imperative. Besides being a slap in the face to our consumerist pride and a lesson in ingenuity, the instruments and microphones made with rubbish heap material give rise to a sound that it totally alien to our mind. And far from sounding archaic, it takes on a velvety feel that is difficult to find anywhere else. This is the reason why the head of Crammed Discs, Vincent Kenis, or Björk had their eyes on the band at the time. Since then, six years have passed, and two albums for Crammed’s “ Congotronics” series have been put out. It might seem absurd that Konono No.1 has four albums out when their music all sounds so similar. But Kenis has been astute in the production, making each album take on new elements, so that the result could be differentiated from the previous work.
“Assume Crash Position” sounds, in many ways, more radiant and luminous than everything put out before. First of all, because the melodies of the likembés and the vocals have more to do with happiness and celebration than with pure spiritual trance. They even give you the opportunity to sing something like a chorus in “ Konono Wa Wa Wa” or to whistle a line of melody in “ Mama Na Bana,” “ Fula Fula” or “ Guiyome” seem like they could have been taken from any Rio de Janeiro batucada group, although one should really say that it’s the Brazilian rhythms that have been taken from African music. If you add the guitar and electric bass that have been added to this approximation to the western mind, in the hands of a cover band that has come up in Kinshasa or by other artists in the Kasai Allstars, the result brings this album closer to popular culture than any other. Konono No.1’s most pop album could have been the headline, but the concept is still light years away from pop. Secondly, the sound engineering has imposed itself this time, giving rise to a cleaner sound. If you listen to the first volume, “Congotronics” and you hear this “Assume Crash Position,” you can tell how much the distortion made by the junky sound system has been lost along the way. Enough to amplify its pleasant effect, while still sounding authentic.
Definitively, “Assume Crash Position” is the most obliging album for the obtuse western mind, the “lightest,” most digestible. If you already liked their music, you will still like it. For those who aren’t familiar with it yet, here you have an album to start with that won’t be too heavy for you. But despite these concessions, the concept that surrounds the band continues to be very present: the lack of resources is often the best school. Let’s take note, as we are in a time of crisis.