Virgin Atlantic give you a whole heap of movies to plough through on their little seatback monitors... I guess its not their fault that they are almost all unwatchable. So, 5 hours into the LHR to MIA flight and I'm flicking through the audio channels trying to find something to pass a few moments while the DVT builds in my calf... When I first hear it I'm thinking that the hopeless plastic headphones are playing up... I mean, it's a racket, distorted, the drums sound like biscuit tins... and its driving and intense and just not the kind of thing that gets played in aircraft... and on and on it goes and I've turned up the volume to try and get the headphones to distort some more and there's chanting and it's obviously African but it sounds like krautrock or that bit before Lou Reed sings "and then my mind split open" in a Velvets song I no longer remember the title of.
Without doubt it is the most exciting piece of music I have heard in months.
When I get home it only takes a google minute to track down the Virgin playlist and identify the band as Konono No 1. Wow. What a band. Formed 25 years ago on the Congo-Angolan border by a thumb piano maestro who started amplifying his instruments when local traffic noise made it difficult to be heard. Now he's leading a troupe of street musicians with an entire sound system hand fashioned out of scrapyard parts and old car magnets. The drums are old tins. And there's a whole album of this stuff. Its real world music. It rocks. It makes me smile. And like the best art it makes me glad that I am still moving around this world even when I'm back sat still here at this desk just clicking on the keys.
Check out a video here Or buy the disc here. Konono No.1 - Congotronics
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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