Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, is where the party is right now. Protest and post-punk soundtrack the streets of Lingwala, recalling the no-wave iconoclasm from the ruins of late 70s New York.
Spearheading the new Congolese agit-punk movement is KOKOKO!, fronted by ‘Zagué’ force of nature Makara Bianko and production from French synth explorer débruit. Backed by DIY musicians from the Ngwaka neighbourhood, political tension and urban decay are channeled into a twisted concoction of off-kilter rhythms, found-junk instrumentation and gritty grooves.
Liboso, their first release with Transgressive Records, is another slice of psych-funk with fire in it’s belly. Opener ‘Blvd Lumumba’ is a slow creeper, an auditory finger beckoning you into their world, enticing you hypnotically against an urban aural landscape of clanging pots and broken glass. The fattest synth bass you’ve ever heard warbles aggressively on ‘Azo Toke’, cymbal claps and Arabic flavoured guitar picking builds to a minimalist and primal frenzy. ESG funk sets the tone on ‘Affaire A Mbongo’, a percussive stomper holding up Bianko’s powerful vocals. Kinshasa partner in crime Rachel Nyangombe features on ‘L.O.V.E’ (first heard on 2017’s Tokoliana), synths squeak and squeal against a fuzzy thud of Nyangombe’s thumb on a live cable, with mysterious garbled voices instilling a touch of menace. Finale ‘Longola Ye Kupe’ ends on a punch of pure kinetics, a driving storm forcing you to dance into a fever.
Tearing down the old order needn’t be nihilistic. Art and music is a formidable asset in the revolutionaries arsenal, and with Liboso, KOKOKO! have delivered an EP that’s so exciting and full of ingenuity, it makes your soul dance, and challenges the consensus deeper than mere didactics ever could.