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Album Review

The third volume in Crammed Disc's excellent Congotronics series is as wild, sophisticated, and truly exotic as its predecessors (the title alone, In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic, should reflect this). The Kasai Allstars are based in Kinshasa and form a collective of about 25 musicians from five different bands from the region who all represent different ethnic groups. Over time immemorial, some of these intersecting groups have been in conflict with one another as each has its own culture and language. In other words, assembling this supergroup was no easy task, but musicians of all cultures tend to think differently than most people: the expansive spirit of adventure often trumps prejudice. These players include not only instrumentalists, but ten singers and dancers as well. Some of these bands — Lusombe, Madimba Tandjolo, Dibua, Basokin, and Masanka Sankayi — have appeared on the two previous Congotronics recordings on their own. The music on this volume is as surprising as it is different from the other Congotronics volumes. These musicians have to adapt instruments, scalar harmonics, singing styles, and even language in order to be able to work together. Add to this the uses of amplification and modern production. That said, they not only invent rhythms and melodies but also play their traditional styles with one another. The players use instruments familiar to all Kasai cultures like the likembe (thumb piano), lokombe, xylophone, and the tandojo as well as the electric guitar (which acted as a substitute for the more traditional lusese tetrachord). The results of this fusion can especially be heard on"Kafuulu Balu," "Mbua-a-matumba," "Analengo," and "Mpombo Yetu." The culture clash that comes across on this glorious volume reflects the strident effort of all of these tribes to maintain their identity against the encroachment of Christianity in the villages that allows these instruments only to be used in the playing of gospel music. The pagan dances, parties, and ceremonies of the tribes have effectively been all but completely stamped out in the remote villages of Kasai. Therefore, this is urban music, from the heart of the city where the influence of the church is far less prominent. The Kasai Allstars, therefore, like the Tinariwen and many other groups, play music of resistance. But never did resistance sound so infectious, joyous, and utterly freewheeling as this does. So far, Crammed's Congotronics series has been virtually unassailable. The sound is terrific, the presentation is handsome, the sound and selection are amazing; and negotiations with musicians are not done on colonial terms. In addition, the wonderfully researched notes by Herbert Mputu and producer Vincent Kenis are indispensable.


Formed: Kinshasa, Congo

Genre: World

Years Active: '10s

Kasai Allstars, a Congolese collective comprised of musicians, singers, and dancers from five different bands, were showcased on the Congotronics series released by the label Crammed Discs. Based in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kasai Allstars includes musicians from the bands Luscombe Madimba, Tandjolo, Dibua Dietu, Basokin, and Masanka Sankayi, some of whom appeared on the 2006 collection Congotronics 2: Buzz'n'Rumble in the Urb'n'Jungle. Kasai Allstars made...
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In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy By Magic, Kasai Allstars
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