Album Notes - Kokoko! - Fongola
What kind of bullshit locution is "world music" anyway? As opposed to what, "cosmos music?" "Intergalactic music?" I've never liked the term, one that Western record companies seemingly applied to any artist not from Europe or North America that made music using words they couldn't understand, or none at all. In record stores, when you finally got past the rock/pop, country, jazz, classical, and hip hop sections, you could find a narrow rack or two of this ill-conceived "genre." And in years prior, that is almost certainly where Kokoko! would have ended up.
Hailing from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kokoko! really is something else. Making most of their own instruments, their debut finds those creations, many of which form Fongola's rhythms, fused with the production of a French guy named Débruit, and the vocal prowess of Makara Bianko, whose singing also incorporates hip hop and Jamaican dancehall. At times Fongola wouldn't sound out of place in a club, while at others is reminiscent of the disorientation from hearing The Bunny at 3am on a decommissioned air force base in Limestone, Maine.
But largely, Kokoko! wanted to make music that reflects the sounds of their hometown. Fongola bounces. It grooves. It makes your head bob. It brings a smile to your face. It leaves you befuddled. It makes you wonder. There's just so much going on, yet it all coheres in a beautifully cacophonous glow. Perhaps if a band ever "deserved" the label of truly being "world music" in a non-condescending sense, Kokoko! might be it. I don't understand a word of what they're saying, but I love Fongola, an album that if anything, seems downright otherworldly.
These guys are pretty fascinating, and if you're curious to learn more, check out this article in at DJmag.com.