Kasai Allstars-Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound.

Label: Crammed Discs.

Format: CD.

In December 2008, the Kasai Allstars released their critically acclaimed  debut album In The 7th Moon, The Chief Turned Into A Swimming Fish and Ate The Head Of His Enemy By Magic. Critics were won over by music which was totally unique. It was also irresistible, joyous, otherworldly, trance-inducing, mythical and mystical. The followup album was eagerly awaited by critics and discerning music lovers.

Nothing was heard of the Kasai Allstars until made an appearance on 2011s Congotronics v Rockers. This was a collaboration between ten Congolese and indie musicians. The result was a glorious cultural collaboration. It was a brief reminder of what the Kasai Allstars were capable of. Surely, their sophomore album wasn’t far away?

Three years later, and the Kasai Allstars released their much-anticipated sophomore album Beware The Fetish in June 2014. It was double album featuring twelve-tracks lasting over 100 minutes and found the Congolese collective showcasing their trademark genre-melting sound. This was a welcome return for the Kasai Allstars. 

During June and July of 2015 the Kasai Allstars embarked upon a rare nine date European festival tour. This included appearances at the legendary Glastonbury and Roskilde. Appearing at two of the biggest festivals in Europe allowed the Congolese supergroup’s music to be heard by a wider audience. 

It wasn’t until May 2017 that the Kasai Allstars returned with a new album. This time it was a soundtrack album, Around Félicité. They wrote and performed most of the album and even feature in the film. However, on some tracks they’re joined by the Kinshasa Symphonic Orchestra. This powerful soundtrack played its part in the success of the film which later in 2017, won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

Four years after the release of the Around Félicité soundtrack the Kasai Allstars return with their fourth album Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound which was recently released on CD by the Belgian label Crammed Discs. They’ve released all of the group’s albums.

Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound features twelve new tracks from fifteen strong mythical collective which is drawn from five groups based in the Kasai region. Together they’re without doubt the most exciting Congolese group of their generation. Despite that, they’re unwilling to stand still and the Kasai Allstars are determined that their music continues to evolve.

To do that, they’ve incorporated electronic music into the twelve compositions on the album. It was produced by the Kasai Allstars guitarist Mopero Mupemba. The new sound finds the group fusing their trademark mixture of electric guitars, traditional drums and distorted thumb pianos with complex electronic drum patterns. They’ve been adapted to the collective’s inimitable rhythmic patterns whose roots can be traced to traditional trance and ritual music. The final piece of the musical jigsaw are the impassioned and intoxicating vocals. When all this is combined the result is a captivating mixture of  textures and breathtaking polyrhythms that’s the latest chapter in the Kasai Allstars’ story.

Making a return on Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound are a number of familiar faces. This includes vocalist Muambuyi whose voice and personality was the inspiration for the award-winning feature film Around Félicité. 

That’s not forgetting powerhouse vocalist Mi Amor; xylophonist Bayila Tshilumba; vocalist and electric thumb piano player Kabongo and vocalist Tandjolo who also plays the lokombe slit drum.They’re joined by a number of membrane-buzz drum players and backing vocalists. However, a new addition to the group is Bijou who is a talented young vocalist Bijou. Playing an important part in the album was guitarist and producer Mopero Mupemba who was responsible for the drum programming. He was helped by sound engineer Papy Atuke when the album was recorded in Kinshasa, in the Congo. The fourth Kasai Allstars album was mixed in Brussels by Greg Bauchau and Vincent Kenis. It’s a welcome addition to their 

Some of the lyrics on Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound were inspired by Congolese myths and proverbs. However, others revolve around the concept that’s metaphorically articulated in the album title that-“unity is strength” which is the motto of a number of countries including Bolivia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Georgia and Haiti. This motto is particularly appropriate given the background of the Kasai Allstars.

The roots of the collective can be traced to the reunion of five bands from the Kasai region. These bands came from five different ethnic groups and had different musical traditions and spoke different languages. This looked like being a stumbling block and would mean that they would be unable to work together. However, it turned out that the bands weren’t incompatible and instead, decided to pool their resources and collaborate on new music. With that, the Kasai Allstars a new Congolese supergroup was born and they embarked upon a musical journey.

During that journey, the genre-melting music they make has  transcended ethnic and linguistic barriers. Kasai Allstars are an inspiration not just to the people of Congo but the wider world.

The collective’s music has found a worldwide audience since 2005. This includes many musicians and especially those within the avant-rock, electronic and hip hop community. Everyone from Björk and ?uestlove to Saul Williams and Juana Molina have been won over by the Kasai Allstars’ music. Their albums have been released to critical acclaim and that’s the case with Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound their first album in four long years.

It finds the group fusing traditional trance, ritual music and  avant-garde with rock while electronic beats and synths add a new element to the group’s trademark sound. They work well in the mix and Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound marks the start of a new chapter in the Kasai Allstars story as their music evolves.

Choosing a few highlights of this genre-melting album isn’t easy. It’s quality all the way from the opening bars of Kusai Munene w which offers a tantalising taste of the collective’s new sound. The vocals are impassioned and heartfelt and are augmented by harmonies during a track that’s joyous, uplifting, soulful and sometimes mesmeric.

There’s a story behind Ooloh, A War Dance For Peace which is another of the album’s highlights. The roots of the song can be traced to a village in the Sankuru province. If there’s a problem amongst the villagers they look for a peaceful solution and perform a war dance holding weapons in their hands. This dance signals the end of hostilities and resolves conflicts. It’s a quite beautiful, laidback song with a consolatory vocals, a guitar that weaves its way across the arrangement and drums that provide the heartbeat.

Then on Musungu Elongo Paints His Face White To Scare Small Children pulsating dance beats open the track before call-and-response vocals and scorching, searing guitars are added as the tempo rises and there’s even more urgency. It becomes almost frenzied as electric and electronic instruments combine on this anthemic floorfiller from the Kasai Allstars. 

Another dancefloor filler is Baba Bende which has uplifting festive sound. That is despite featuring some of the most complex rhythms on the album   

Joyous describes The Joy Of Singing. It’s a mixture of the group’s old and new sounds. Contrasts abound during the track. It features a vampish vocal that’s full of emotion with soulful harmonies adding the finishing touch.

Betrayal By Gossip is another song with a message. Initially, it sounds as if it was inspired by early house music. This soon passes and the Kasai Allstars are augmenting their traditional sound with the electronic instruments. It’s a captivating fusion, especially as the track features one of the best vocal performances. Although the collective have some talented vocalists they’re at their best singing call-and-response.

From the opening bars of Unity Is Strength it’s apparent that this uptempo track is something special. A chiming guitar, drums percussion and synths provide the accompaniment for the vocal which is which is delivered with power and passion and sometimes becomes a vamp as it’s delivered with urgency. The result is one of the album’s highlights.

The Goat’s Voice closes Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound and features an emotive and impassioned vocal. It’s delivered against an arrangement where traditional and electronic instruments are combined successfully during a multilayered arrangement. This includes a blistering and chiming guitar and even some Eastern sounds during this captivating and memorable track. It brings to an end this musical feast.

Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound features the Kasai Allstars’ genre-melting music and finds them mixing their unique sound with electronic music to create a twelve course veritable musical feast.

Kasai Allstars-Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound.

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