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Thursday, July 10, 2008

CONGOTRONICS #3: KASAI ALLSTARS

Just got off the phone from interviewing Mputu Ebondo aka "Mi Amor" from the Congalese band Kasai Allstars (and thanks to David for acting as translator), so it seemed a suitable moment to mention what a wonderful album this is:



"In the 7th Moon, the Chief turned into a swimming fish and ate the head of his enemy by magic."

I heard this about a day after Bo Diddly died and the two events somehow seemed kinda karmically entwined - the idea of Roll n Roll being completely redrafted from the ground up in Africa; that The Blues get completely circumnavigated/sidelined here in favour of something far older and closer to the source, yet at the same time this sounds so fucking hypermodern and new w/out resorting to mixing-desk tricks...Vincent Kenis' production is superbly understated and unobtrusive; it lets the music speak for itself...this sounds so fabulously futuristic, yet it's rooted in the here-and-now and in tradition.

This album bowled me over when I first heard it a month or so ago - I selected it for my Track of the Week and a few days later by a weird coincidence I bumped into John who represents Crammed at the Venn fest. just as we were unpacking to play. I expressed an interest in writing about the guys from Kasai and then all sorts of weird wheels started turning.

'Cos I'm gonna be writing about this elsewhere I'm going to break off for now, apart from to say that I adore this album and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

No doubt, folks who follow modern African music much more closely than I do will probably jump in and tell me there's loads of recent releases that are better/more innovative/etc than this one...by all means, please feel free to put me right, but I ain't gonna stop loving this one. It feels, hand on heart, like an important album to me in some way. I'm certainly feeling it on some deep, personal level wh/ is why I was so desperate to write about it. I'm still loving that Group Inerane LP too...wouldn't mind talking to those guys some day. If anyone from Sublime Frequencies is reading this...

Mputu also played/plays in Basokin, who I think date back to the 80s and feature on Congotronics #2.

Kasai were due to play the UK along with the mighty Konono No. 1, but the tour got cancelled; this press-release sadly explains why:

"As you may know from press, Divano Production has been facing several difficulties in granting EU and UK access for both Konono and Kasai Allstars.

"After several months struggling to process Schengen and British visas in order to complete a promising Congotronics tour, and despite having strong support from our partners (booking agencies and promoters), and media interest and pressure on diplomatic missions in Kinshasa and abroad, we ended up with the following situation:

"Since January, Konono members have applied for new passports as the old ones were full with previously granted visas. Unfortunately, the Congolese government is not issuing passports for several months. The artists obtained diplomatic passports from the Congolese Ministry Of Culture. Nevertheless, the French embassy refused their visa application and the Swedish embassy has not issued visas until today, which leads inevitably to the cancellation of the whole tour.

"Kasai Allstars applied for Schengen visas two months ago, which were granted for Friday 20th June - 4 days before their departure to Europe - excluding the possibility of applying for UK visas (UK being delivered by British embassy in Nairobi, Kenya).

"While not having granted visas, flight reservations for the artists were lost a few days ago, travelling costs doubled, and the band would have had to stay in Europe for another 15 days. Taking in consideration the fact that British embassies in Europe do not deliver visas to non EU residents, Kasai are not able to perform at WOMAD, which would have covered a part of the days-off costs.

"This is just an example to illustrate the disastrous financial situation of the tour. In fact, the Konono and Kasai tours combined, extra costs already invested due to visa problems and enormously increased expected costs Vs no entry make supporting already-truncated tours impossible.

"It is not the first time Divano production is hit by this reality and we doubt being able to continue in our activities, due to a financial collapse."

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