The Kinshasa based collective KOKOKO! have been gaining international exposure, with even Time Magazine giving coverage to a video introducing their work. Footage of frenetic Congolese night life is intercut with the group’s improvised performances. Most notably, they use objects from glass bottles to typewriters as instruments. But such lo-fi production is no gimmick, as the group was unable to afford conventional equipment when they started out. As one member puts it in their video “survival is creativity”.
Along with the DIY instruments, comes a punk charged worldview. The collective is explicit about their political message, with their music critiquing the greed and exploitation around them. As their website manifesto puts it “With the constant degradation of their quality of life, Kinshasa’s youth began to question the taboo of ‘respect for one’s elders’ – denouncing the state of a society paralyzed by fear. This spirit of protest is KOKOKO!… the soundtrack of Kinshasa’s tomorrow”.
The group originally coalesced around throwing intense live performances, but with the recruitment of French producer Debruit have been expanding their recorded output. The two track Tokoliana EP is the result, a bracing blast of post-punk asperity and edgy psychedelic exploration. The title track is a hypnotic protest against the cannibalistic reality of capitalism, with lyrics depicting a society where the weak are devoured whole. In contrast with the bleak theme, the song sounds exuberant with infectious synthesizers overlaid by a chanted chorus.
This unique work is epitomized by its cover art, which shows a crouched man surrounding by foliage, wearing a VR mask made out of leaves. An image of an ingenious future cobbled together from whatever resources are at hand. Working through initial material limitations, KOKOKO! are thriving on the bleeding edge of wherever music is going next.