One to watch: Kokoko!

With their upcycled instruments and agit-punk beats, the Congolese collective kick against African music stereotypes

If Devo had been upcycling guitars and jamming at block parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they might have sounded something like Kokoko!. A product of Kinshasa’s DIY music scene, the group – who all sport matching yellow boiler suits – have brought their songs about identity and struggle to dance music festivals internationally, bowled over the stiff hipsters at South by Southwest and signed to the UK indie label Transgressive for their newly released debut album, Fongola.

They refer to their style as “tekno kintueni”, a raw party sound that is inspired by electronic music. Except, as they haven’t got the right machines to make it, they’ve invented their own. Their restless junkshop agit-punk is, like fellow Congolese band Konono No 1, the result of handmade instruments fashioned from trash, such as a xylophone/conga contraption made out of plastic containers and typewriter drums. “Survival fuels creativity,” they have said.

Kokoko! are one of a number of groups who are shaking off fusty stereotypes about African music, showing that it can be contemporary and isn’t always rooted in tradition. They’ve teamed up with French musician Débruit, who plays synths and produces, and whose shadowy club touches have helped make the band’s urgent tracks work for global dancefloors. They sound like a borderless future – and it’s yellow boiler suit-bright.

  • Fongola is out now on (Royal Mountain Records

Watch the video for Buka Dansa by Kokoko!

Contributor

Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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