FONGOLA (KOKOKO!)

RELEASED 5TH JULY 2019

Favourite Track: Malembe

This is one of the most interesting and innovative albums I’ve heard that tells a hidden story of the downtown scene present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

I hadn’t actually heard of KOKOKO! at all. The project is described as the “sound of Kinshasa’s tomorrow”, with Kinshasa being the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bio informs us that this is music that “can’t be just defined or looked at with a western eye as African music and even less world music” and is instead better suited to the description of music representing “ghetto and downtown clubs in between the Government’s imposed power cuts”. Immediately this makes the project one of cultural significance and has me curious. The cover art to the album Fongola displays a fragmented angry face in blue layered on top of a red background. It’s really weird looking but there is something very artistic about it at the same time. It feels like a revolution with the expression and the colour choices which I suppose is kind of what the project is about since it’s music bursting from a set of circumstances.  

Image credit: KOKOKO! Music

‘Likolo’ opens with a mix of percussion instruments that builds into a more regular rhythm and melody. Then around 40 seconds into the song a bass is added then vocals and electric guitar which has an element of tension to it whilst remaining strangely calming too. I don’t know whether or not to be on edge because the music sort of puts you into a trance. ‘Azo Toke’ is more of a call and response song with a mix of electric and percussion backing to give the song some energy and pace. The guitar in this song is really cool and the pace builds a significant amount. I know that if any of the songs in this album were taken and sampled in the commercial Hip-Hop scene right now, they would be hit songs. ‘Buke Dansa’ will have you dancing for sure. It’s fast paced, repetitive and incorporates a lot of chanting and vocal builds. I really like from about 45 seconds into it and onwards, it gets really cool and more Dance-y genre wise. One of the more captivating openings is in ‘Identité’ which has a rich arrangement of backing instruments to build up the song.

‘Malembe’ has a strong beat and a very quirky synth build. I love the guitar in the background which speeds the whole thing up and elaborates on the existing tension already produced by the drums and vocals. ‘L.O.V.E’ has quite an Arab strings sound to it with a junkyard style collection of instruments to create the beat and backing (this is the case in many of the songs and it’s so innovative). Plucked bass guitar works nicely in ‘Zala Mayele’ which is a very quirky song. I love the echo’d retro style high pitched synthy electric guitar partnered with the vocals in ‘Singa’. It’s haunting and then becomes very futuristic with a change in the synths. ‘Kitoko’ is a collaboration of string instruments with a nice regular beat that builds up and introduces electric guitar and female vocals. It’s one I can see being a hit in the downtown scene. ‘Tokoliana’ fits with the rest of the album, making for a decent end.

I can see this entire project being used as the soundtrack to a film about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, almost in the cinematic style as used in City of God.