African Trance Music Comes to Dayton

10.19.2005 | Campus and CommunityThe fast-rising African band Konono No. 1, praised by All About Jazz as "insanely wonderful" and  The New York Times as "one of the most startling of recent world-music" discoveries, makes its Dayton  debut in a concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Kennedy Union Boll Theater on the University of Dayton  campus.

The performance is the season kick-off for the CITYFOLK World Rhythms Series, presented in collaboration with the University of Dayton Arts Series. General admission tickets for the concert are $18 and are available from the Cityfolk box office at (937) 496-3863.

Konono No. 1 was founded more than 25 years ago by Mawangu Miniedi, a virtuoso musician who plays the likembe ("thumb piano"), a traditional instrument that consists of several flat strips of metal attached to a wooden resonator. Also known as a kalimba or mbira, the instrument has been electrified by Miniedi, who used scavenged magnets from car alternators to create pickups. The band uses three  different likembes — bass, medium and treble — as its primary melody instruments.   

Originally from a part of central Africa that straddles the border between Angola and the Democratic  Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Konono No. 1 is now based in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. The band, which plays traditional Bazombo trance music and showcases polyrhythmic percussion, singing, dancing, call-and-response chanting, and the droning, hynoptic likembes, makes its living playing  in the outdoor cafes of Kinshasa.      

The 13-piece band needed to be heard over traffic noise and put together a sound system. A marvel of  ingenuity and recycling in an impoverished war zone, the system includes microphones carved from wood and rigged with salvaged wiring and magnets; megaphones for the singers called lance-voix, or voice throwers; homemade amplifiers powered by car batteries; and speakers, about the size of large trashcan lids and dating from when the Belgian colonists left in 1960, mounted on tall, spindly stands.    

The sound system worked, after a fashion and 30 years of tinkering and technological  accommodation. The band has arrived at a unique, danceable but almost indescribable sound that appeals not only to the more traditionally oriented fans of African and world music, but also a worldwide audience of techno, dance, electronica, noise and experimental rock enthusiasts, as well as such modern  musicians as Tortoise, the Ex and the Dead C.     

Besides a quick trip to Amsterdam to record its live album, Konono No. 1 is new to international touring. This CITYFOLK appearance at the University of Dayton's Boll Theater is part of Konono No. 1's  first U.S. tour, a 12-date cross-country swing with stops in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. The band made its first tour of Europe earlier this year.     

Konono No. 1 made its recording debut in 1978, as the Orchestre Tout Puissant Likembe Konono No.  1, with a lengthy cut on the multi-artist compilation Zaire: Musiques Urbaines a Kinshasa. A live album  recorded in Amsterdam, Lubuaku, followed in 2004. Konono's first "studio" album, Congotronics, was  issued earlier this year by the Belgian label Crammed Discs. The CD was released in the United States this summer.   

All CITYFOLK events are accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities. Available services  include audio amplification headsets, large-print or Braille programs, sign interpretation, audio  description and wheelchair accessibility. For information about services available for a particular  CITYFOLK event, please call (937) 223-3655 (voice/TTY) or e-mail cityfolk@cityfolk.org.    

For more information on the Nov. 13 Konono No. 1 show, visit www.cityfolk.org.