Congo Watch: Konono No 1 - Congotronics

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Konono No 1 - Congotronics

Konono No 1- or to give them their full name, Orchestre Tout Puissant Likembe Konono No 1 de Mingiedi - come from Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville) the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They play their own hand-built 'Congotronic' sound system, featuring giant 'likembe' thumb pianos and carved wooden microphones built from scratch with old car alternator magnets. Bandleader Mingiedi began to accomodate this ad-hoc technology when Kinshasa's increasing traffic noise started to drown out his likembe.

Konono No. 1 - Congotronics
Left: mixing desk - right: microphone made of carved wood

The Guardian UK says Konono No 1 could be one of the unexpected successes of the year. Richard in New Zealand writes this:
"Check these guys out, they live in the Congo, make their own mics out of wood and bits of cars and sound like this. Amazing, my computer aided, condenser mic boosted, effect ridden stuff never sounded this good. It's got this cool techno, dare I say it, Jungle, thing going down. Full credit.

This story is a testament to the power of the web (how they're broadcasting their stuff round the globe) and their spirit as muso's. It's also interesting to note the universality of music, I'm assuming these guys don't listen to a lot of house but they wind up creating the same grooves as you're likely to hear in any London club. Respect."
Good luck to them. Let's hope their music hits the big time and generates worldwide publicity for the people suffering in DRC.
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George Medal Awarded

On 18 March 2005 Colonel Paul Anthony Jobbins OBE RD MSc, a Royal Marine Reserve, was honoured for his actions in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004 and received the George Medal.

"Col Jobbins was responsible for tactical control of all UN forces in Bukavu, the major city in the eastern Congo, when serious fighting broke out and the city fell to insurgents in June 2004. Women were raped, innocent children murdered and homes pillaged. Throughout this dangerous period, unarmed and at great personal risk, Col Jobbins worked ceaselessly to conduct negotiations with faction commanders, arrange the withdrawal of all forces and rescue UN personnel and Congolese civilians. Col Jobbins drove through crossfire to meet with a dissident General, persuaded him to halt his advance, and personally rescued many terrified civilians, often under fire. He personally ensured the safety of thousands of civilians and is cited for his commitment and courage, and his gallant leadership under fire." [via Jules]

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