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KOKOKO!’s innovative sound is shining a light on the people of the Congo

Photo Credit: Bob Boilen/NPR

Last month the dance music group KOKOKO! from Sinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, stopped by NPR’s Tiny Desk. Rocking their stagewear of bright yellow jumpsuits, they created an incredible sound from DIY instruments. That’s right, every instrument they play has been constructed by the group themselves from junk found in the streets of Sinshasa. KOKOKO! makes “tekno kintueni” —a raw, hypnotic dance music that fuses local tradition with contemporary influences and new musical directions, specifically electronic music. This socially conscious group is raising awareness of the challenges faced by the Congolese people.

While Sinshasa may be the capital, it is also the largest city of the DR Congo with a population of over 12 million people. Given that, it was estimated by World Bank that 73% of Congo’s population lived in extreme poverty in 2018. KOKOKO!’s birthplace of Sinshasa is a rich aural landscape, full of people and the chaotic sounds that come with it; the group has been using these sounds as inspiration for their music since 2016. Their debut album Fongola was released this July on Transgressive Records.

KOKOKO!’s creative edge doesn’t end with their music, check out their official music video for their track Buka Dansa below.

In fact, KOKOKO!’s own name in their local language of Lingala means, “knock knock knock” and refers back to the group’s origin. As political instability befell Congo in 2017 the group had to literally knock on embassy doors for visa approval to embark on their international tour. Now the group says they’re knocking on people’s consciousness, “to open up to the kind of musical innovation we’re proposing.” It goes to show that the power of music may really know no boundaries.

 

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