Review : Various Artists - The Karindula Sessions
Popmatters“Karindula” ain’t a place, and it definitely ain’t a studio—it’s a “giant banjo made out of an oil barrel, a goat skin, four strings, and an empty bag of powdered milk”. It sounds like an electric bass with ultra-loose strings, or an acoustic bass with a SuperBall glued under the bridge. Stay with me.
Played and filmed during a three-day festival in Lubumbashi, the capital of the southeastern Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Karindula Sessions collects performances from four groups who center their music around the instrument—centered to such a degree, in fact, that the word now applies to the music itself, a vaguely-defined “genre” of sorts. Actually, it’s often a conventional banjo that drives the music forward: the swiftness of the strumming—very static, very sharply controlled, and near constant—allows the singers to gradually shift and syncopate over the rhythms, flowing their chants over long running times (15 minutes is average) toward careful arpeggios that could tender the worried nerves in any of us. Listen to the siren-like call-up in BBK’s “Tshikuna” as the karindula snaps back the root beat, or the sudden space left during Bana Simba’s DVD performance of “Beggars’ Banquet”, wherein three chords are left to stand with just handclaps and declamatory vocals.
Mood-wise, the vibe is so celebratory that it’s almost hymnal. There’s a fragility here—which tends to happen with any such spartan music, not to mention music that’s often performed at funerals (as this is)—but there’s also cheery touches of reggae that inform the music, among other convenient touchstones for the newly initiated. Syncopation is common even when there doesn’t seem to be a consistent beat, which on the one hand lets the music tread water for longer than your attention might care for (Bana Simba’s thumpier sound starts to wear thin over the audio disc’s “Beggars’ Banquet”), but on the other hand allows for sneak-right-up-on-you moments, like the beautiful call-and-response in the final minute of BBK’s “Muriagombe”. For rock crowds, Bena Ngoma might be the most easily approachable group: they’re cockier and look younger, and they’re more hip to tempo swells during simpler chord progressions as in “Banani Batawina Bena Ngoma”. And as for the words…well, if we’re to judge by the descriptions, they’re almost elliptical; the straight-through-the-sunshine dance of Bana Lupemba’s “Wa Nkolomona Lelo Kinde Lelo Shikinda” has words translated in the liner notes as, “You defied me / Today you’ll see that I’m not joking.” (The same group’s “Kiyongo”, on the DVD, might be the highlight of the package.)...full text
GuardianVincent Kenis is a musical explorer. In the 90s he travelled across the Balkans, recording the now-celebrated Romanian Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, and in recent years he has spent much of his time in the Democratic Republic of Congo, living in areas where most Europeans never venture and helping bring global success to those rousing bands Konono No 1 and Staff Benda Bilili (who were getting nowhere until he produced their album Très Très Fort). For his latest project, he travelled to Lubumbashi in the south-east province of Katanga, to record a street festival where four young bands were playing the often frantic and hypnotic local music, karindula. It's based around a typically Congolese DIY instrument also known as the karindula, a giant banjo made from an oil barrel covered in a goat skin, with four strings and an empty bag of powdered milk attached between the strings and the neck to produce a buzzing tone. Shifting, often rapid-fire riffs are accompanied by percussion and chanting vocals, and the result is furious, trance-like dance music that never lets up. The best song, BBK's Mbelelambelela, lasts for half an hour....full text
TelegraphThe Belgian label Crammed has had huge success packaging obscure Congolese sounds as cutting-edge lifestyle music, from Konono No1 to paraplegic guitar band Staff Benda Bilili.
Here they show there’s plenty more wild, raw material out there, with fired-up acoustic dance music from the country’s copper-mining belt. The passionate call-and-response singing is powered by the thrumming of a giant banjo....full text
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