CD Review: Mbongwana Star, From Knishasa

Congolese Seven-Piece Encapsulates a Spirit of Fusion and Reinvention

We are in times of change. Across the world, old structures are being summarily dismantled and labels torn off, with cultures connecting in completely new ways beneath newly shifting climates. May the newly formed Congolese seven-piece Mbongwana Star be the Titanic orchestra for these dying ways. With a name meaning “change,” Mbongwana Star encapsulate a spirit of fusion and reinvention on its debut album, From Kinshasa, that will surprise even the most jaded of ears. Like other African musicians of the last decade (Konono No. 1, Group Inerane), they blend junked and secondhand Western instruments with traditional styles, but theirs is a sound that’s altogether unheard of. Launching straight into space on creepily atmospheric opener “From Kinshasa to the Moon,” the band blasts out of earthly musical bounds and never looks back, fusing Congolese, post-punk, blues, and dance rhythms with a level of fuzzed-out raw energy rarely recorded. “Shégué” sizzles with washes of warped guitar and blown-out vocals, and album highlight “Malukayi” pulses around a circling likembé melody so hypnotic it could induce mass dance breakouts. For listeners looking for a bit of change, look no further ― no other album this year will be quite like it.

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