Mbongwana Star, Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | International | Chicago Reader

Mbongwana Star, Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta Recommended Member Picks Free All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Thu., Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m. 2016

Coco Ngambali and Theo Nsituvuidi were members of Staff Benda Bilili, a remarkable band of homeless Congolese paraplegics who lived on the grounds of Kinshasa’s zoological gardens and mixed conventional and homemade instruments to create a sound all their own. Belgian producer Vincent Kenis of Congotronics fame introduced the crew to the world, but after making two strong albums for Crammed Discs they suffered an acrimonious breakup. Last year the two former members debuted Mbongwana Star with the help of Irish-born, Paris-based producer and bassist Doctor L (ne Liam Farrell, who worked previously with Nigerian drummer Tony Allen). There’s a strong Western vibe at work on the group’s knockout From Kinshasa (World Circuit). The album’s mix of numbed postpunk and funk grooves with local traditions makes me think of a group of soukous musicians who’ve just stumbled into the sessions for Talking Heads’ Fear of Music—liquid guitar and soulful Lingala vocals float over throbbing rhythms, accented by the occasional blown-out note. There’s no concern for world-music purity; on the contrary, it’s the collision of disparate sounds that makes the project so electric. “Shégué” pulses with a tightly coiled bass, stuttering beats, wiry and minimal funk guitar, spare organ stabs, and bursts of electronic noise—still, it’s the group’s call-and-response vocals that give the song its charm. “Coco Blues” has an austere, low-key quality, a simple guitar lick cushioning the gorgeously soulful singing of Ngambali, while “Malukayi” enjoys the extra propulsion provided by the ringing, amplified likembes of Kinshasa’s Konono No 1. A charming homage that reveals where Mbongwana Star came from, closer “1 Million C’est Quoi?” features the unmistakable soukous guitar, and it ultimately illustrates that the musicians are headed toward a much different place. This is their Chicago debut.

Peter Margasak

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