It’s important to not forget the exclamation mark at the end of this band's name. It’s not Kokoko.
It’s Kokoko! It demands your attention! It’s explosive!
Hailing from Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, Kokoko! (which means “Knock, knock, knock!”) has defined itself as an exclamation-worthy, “explosive new band with an alternative sound.”
That alternative sound comes from objects beyond your imagination. Think a a typewriter as percussion or a harp made of wires strung up to old coffee cans.
In May of this year, the band released an introduction video discussing their unique sound. “We dig electronic music a lot, but as we have no machines to produce that sound, we create electronic instruments of our own with the junk we collect on the street. Survival fuels creativity.”
They've named the sound “tekno kintueni” or “zague” in Lingala (the language spoken in some parts of the Republic of Congo and DRC). In an interview, the group explained that it’s inspired by the everyday sounds they hear around their hometown.
“Kinshasa is a city you listen to.”
Teaming up with French producer Débruit, Kokoko! dropped their first single “Tokoliana” a month after the introduction video. Taken from their debut EP of the same name, “Tokoliana” earned praises from the likes of Pitchfork, which applauded the band’s talent in “turning chaos into euphoria.”
The euphoria continued when on October 20, Kokoko! released a follow-up EP, Tongos’a. The EP sees the band further exploring themes of survival in DRC’s current political climate.
Like its predecessor, Tongos’a consists of two songs. First is the titular track, which translates to “Til’ the morning light” and discusses “the necessity of getting laid properly.” The “raunchy ghetto anthem” comes with a tropical bass line derived from a folkloric pattern from the Mongo tribe.
In the second track, “Likolo,” lead singer Makara Bianko laments Kinshasa’s obsession with money. We can all relate. “We are all naked bodies under the sky, we all know how it’s going to end,” Bianko sings. The song gets its haunting quality from the funeral chant from Bianko’s Bateke ethnicity, which he interprets into a plea for detachment and spirituality.
Listen to “Likolo,” below:
To experience the explosiveness of Kokoko! in its entirety, purchase Tongos’a here.