A wind of change is blowing over the cultural landscape of Kinshasa. An amazing alternative scene is thriving far for the occidental fantasies of “world music”... It is explosive and vibrant.
These sounds are emanating from the ghetto and downtown clubs of the Congolese capital in between the government-imposed power cuts. The artists actually bring something alive in the chaos of the 3rd biggest African city. They have strong new ideas with DIY constructed instruments and a powerful and unique drive. This movement is more expressive, lively, spontaneous and direct compared to most big cities’ scenes, like London, Berlin etc... It’s raw, free and open creatively more like NYC in the 70s and 80s or Berlin in the 90s if it has to be compared to artistic movements. It’s inventing everything from nothing and it’s happening now and you can experience it through the recordings, the videos and KOKOKO!‘s incredible live shows.
Supported by Pitchfork, TIME, i-D, BBC6, Afropunk and featured at TED’s TEDGlobal 2017 conference or Resident Advisor’s live videos, KOKOKO! is the DIY collective pioneering an inspiring alternative scene from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their introductory video amassed over 2 million views across various platforms, and their hypnotic debut EP, TOKOLIANA, found favour in Resident Advisor, Bandcamp Daily, and BBC Radio 1.
In the spring of 2018, the band completed their first sold-out European tour – which saw over 800 attending their second ever show in Brussels – KOKOKO! Took their electrifying live show across 19 dates in Europe last autumn. Throughout October and November, they played the likes of Amsterdam Dance Event, Milan’s Linecheck Festival, and headlined their own residency at the 25th London Jazz Festival. 2018 sees them completing another hectic summer with performances at Roskilde, Sonar, Dour, We Love Green, Lente Kabinet, Down The Rabbit Hole and many more. Crowd surfing and encores accompanied the rave reviews as they were constantly referred to as the band to have watched.
Moving into 2019, the band embark on another epic tour which also includes them taking their first footsteps on American soil. This being highlighted by playing none other than the world-renowned SXSW festival in Austin, accompanied by other shows in New York (Baby’s All Right), Los Angeles (Moroccan Lounge), San Francisco (Public Works) and five gigs and the infamous SXSW Festival in Austin. The tour sees them also play in Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany before the busy summer schedule is upon them once again.
KOKOKO! now have 4 releases in the public mainstream and have collaborated with other African artists on remixes and music. The latest of which being the band’s first official EP, the 5 track Liboso EP, which was released in December 2018 on Transgressive Records whom they recently signed to. With more exciting collaborations in the works, the band are currently concentrating on working towards their debut album, due out in Q2 2019.
In Kinshasa the spirit of performance is multidisciplinary and collaborative, the performance artists, musicians and dancers often perform together, expressing similar sentiments and sharing the same rebellious spirit.
The wider KOKOKO! collective includes performance artists who head to busy crossroads in search of an audience in the bustling city, their gestures expressing the harsh realities of current events in the country. Their work allows them to speak out, without words, in order to express the frustrations of today and the events of the past that have driven what should be one of the richest countries in the world into chaos, which richer foreign countries feed off of and exploit.
It does not escape the notice of the Congolese people that the very resources which have fueled much of the most prosperous countries industrial and technological progress, from slaves, rubber and diamonds to the coltan powering our smartphones, are the root cause of their own country’s suffering.
Who are KOKOKO!
The band was born in Kinshasa when Makara Bianko, Débruit and a group of musicians from the Ngwaka neighbourhood met. They rehearsed and recorded together in a self-made studio made of material gathered around. After one month of playing and creating new sounds they improvised a block party on a building site of the Kato street ghetto, that would be the 1st performance of KOKOKO! And would define the collective that also includes art performers and dancers.
The project is quite psychedelic, involving electronic formation playing repetitive patterns on self-designed string instruments and other percussive inventions made from recycled scrap material. Makara Bianko, the young energetic singer creating a brutal hybrid of "coupé décalé" with a punk attitude he calls "Zagué" from the Lingwala neighbourhood where he plays 6 nights a week with his dancers.
“KOKOKO! excel at turning chaos into euphoria” Pitchfork
“Energetic and explosive... inspiring a thriving alternative dance” TED Global
“KOKOKO! is an explosive new musical collective that thrives on ingenuity” TIME
“Get to know the soundtrack of Kinshasa, a powerful protest project... KOKOKO!” i-D
“This is more than survival. This is genius” AFROPUNK