Konono No. 1 - S.O.B.s, 11.17.05

Konono gussied up their show for America. No homemade amps. No homemade mics. The menacing air-siren-styled speakers on stage were not hooked up to anything—they didn’t even have wires! They using an octave pedal ferchrissakes!

Essentially, the only reason Konono No. 1 gets to play in America is because they have a cool gimmick. No talks about what they actually sound like. Hell, what do they sound like? It’s not Afro-Cuban enough to be soukous, there’s not enough guitars to be chimurenga and too many mbiras to be juju. Bossman Ciabs says they’re just Congolese street music with a history in trance, but that ain’t gonna get people to buy $12 appletinis at Joe’s Pub.

No, Konono No. 1 boasts hipster cachet because they built their own equipment out of car parts. Accordingly, the crowd was mostly from the white nerd constituency—all transfixed by band who didn’t bring their ingeniously re-gutted amps, the same amps that glitch out their sound into fuzzy bursts, making them kin-in-timbre to the Boredoms and Amps For Christ. I feel kind of duped that such a “must-see” event show was essentially just a damn good African dance band—the same kind that play here all the time, but I somehow never make it out to. The same ones that the hipsters dismiss as fodder for the socks-and-sandals NPR crowd who doodle kokopellis on the back of their stock portfolios.

I feel like a real schmuck because I haven’t made it out to an African dance show since Oliver Mtukudzi in Prospect Park last year. I’ve seen like five Growing shows in that time! Mtukudzi’s band was livelier and rowdier than Konono… and there were actual African people in the audience!

Senegalese drum/dance troupe Cheikh Tairou M'Baye And Sing Sing Rhythm are playing in December. Who’s going with me?


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