Favorizing will never become alright. Things are different with Mbongwana Star, though, as we can’t keep ourselves from being especially excited about their festival visit. That’s not only because several band members are old friends of ours, also because Mbongwana Star’s debut album is one of the year’s best – and most fascinating – releases.
After spending many long years in the streets of Kinshasa as handicapped homeless, the world came to notice the rumba music of middle-aged Staff Benda Bilili (“look beyond appearance” in lingali) towards the end of last decade. Their journey from practically nothing – besides from music, of course – to far more than most African polio victims will ever be able to acquire, is a touching story.
Thus, it was a great disappointment when founders Coco Ngabali and Theo Nzonza left the band in 2013. After a meeting with the French-Irish Liam “Doctor L”, however, the masterminds was born again as Mbongwana Star: A phoenix with richer, darker and way more contemporary shades than what came before.
Still, From Kinshasa couldn’t have come from anywhere else than, uh, Kinshasa. But for all we know, Kinshasa has become another planet since our last visit. The album is steeped in a mysterious nerve which gives the music a strangely extraterrestrial touch. Noisy post-punk guitars, rolling dub bass and shrill synths meet Congolese rumba rhythms and Konono Nº1s unique congotronics, sounding like nothing else.
Text: Kim Klev