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Kinshasa One Two
Plenty of good vibrations from Damon Albarn’s umpteenth side project.
Celina Murphy, 14 Oct 2011
Damon Albarn’s musical liaisons with Africa go as far back as 2000, when Oxfam invited the frontman to Mali to act as an ambassador for the charity. Albarn being Albarn, wasn’t happy with the political implications of the role. He was there to play, and he’s been playing with African musicians ever since.
As well as making the Mali Music album in 2002, he performed on the latest record by Kenyan collective The Owiny Sigoma Band and he’s currently recording an album with Nigerian drummer Tony Allen. His ongoing, celeb-loaded Africa Express project has even helped launched the careers of two new artists, Baloji and Fatoumata Diawara.
Despite Albarn’s deep understanding of the African soundscape, Kinshasa One Two is a freakishly challenging undertaking, and one that could easily go horribly wrong. Led by Albarn, a team of producers (T-E-E-D, Dan The Automator, Jneiro Jarel, Richard Russell, Actress, Marc Antoine, Alwest, Rodaidh McDonald and Kwes ‑ whew!) flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo this past July, and returned with an album just five days later.
Dan The Automator explained the aesthetic: “The philosophy was only use stuff that the Congolese musicians generated. Do anything you want with it, but only use what they give you.”
The resulting London-Kinshasa soundclash seems to touch on every facet of the commendable Congolese character. Sometimes frantic, sometimes graceful, sometimes jubilant, the local musicians operate with a freeflowing groove that easily lends itself to urban music. ‘Love’, an untouched, one-minute vocal performance shows just how much talent Albarn & Co. had to work with.
Rhythms range from the trippy (‘Ah Congo’) to the head-spinning (‘We Come From The Forest’) to the danceable (‘Three Piece Sweet Paris Parts 1 & 2’). The ballsy, chiming ‘K-Town’ is a standout, along with a particularly hectic hidden track at the end of the album. ‘Lourds’ is another highlight, thanks to Yende Bongogo’s crystal clear falsetto and impressive throat singing.