me: world music marketing is so crazy right now. on the back of a cd i just got sent:
“a group of parapalegic street musicians who live in and around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, Congo
matt: wowwwwwwwwww
me: they make music of astonishing power and beauty.”
matt: man
that’s really crazy
what does that mean?


[King Leopold II caricature, from Vanity Fair 1869]

me: hardcore sick novelty post-Konono
its apparently true
it means in order to sell african music 2 younger market they need sensationalist backstory
matt: yeah that’s a really weird flavor of exploitation
they live in a zoo!
pity sales
me: w/ Konono (also from kinshasa) it was “they make their own amps and it distorts, f#cked up folk-urban”
backstory sales
spectacle sales
matt: yeah
me: the zoo bit is jawdropping
oh yeah, bikes rigged up to be taxis/mobile transport units. on cover of CD
matt: parapalegic zoo resident music
me: made in yet another failed african state undergoing massive crisis, but not so famous as Zimbabwe..
now on sale by Belgian label,.
Sent at 11:21 PM on Tuesday
me: ‘King Leopold Productions” – just kidding. i should post this convo on the blog.
Sent at 11:22 PM on Tuesday
matt: haha yes
it’s very odd out there
Sent at 11:25 PM on Tuesday

+ + +

“Today at the dawn of 2009, people in the Congo are still dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month and already 2,700,000 people have died since 2004.

– wikipedia sourced from this New York Times article.

8 thoughts on “ODD OUT THERE”

  1. Maybe that’s what this guy was foreshadowing. Are too many movies like Lord of War and Blood Diamonds turning the popular U.S. (and Belgian) image of Africa from backwards bush to weird urban post apocalypse?

    You can find a lot of older African vinyl in Brussels. Big up Baloji and Zap Mama too.

  2. Crippled congolese living in a zoo? It sounds like a metaphore of the state of the country over the last 20 years, since the USA dropped that SOB Mobutu Sese Seko, former father Bush best friend and rampart against communism. Anyway, on that very good Arte reportage http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1a859_kinshasa-la-kingston-africaine_music, you’ll have a hint of what is this sound of the zoo, the sound of the gutter!
    For the not french speakin fellows: the shege (from European shengen space where you can travel like there is no border thank to the shengen passeport, in their case, their handmade instrument) are the kids of the street that have no choice to survive but stealing or doing music.
    So what they do? On that vid a kid just reinvent the blues.

  3. From the good folks at Pitchfork – “Flush with the success of his Congotronics series, Vincent Kenis scores again on the streets of Kinshasa, this time with a record by four singing, guitar-playing paraplegic polio victims on tricked-out Mad Max trikes…”—Scramble for Africa, 21st century style.

    “Oh yeah, and it was recorded outdoors in Kinshasa’s zoological garden with stolen electricity.”

    My impression after reading this; SBB don’t live in the zoo, they just utilize private or govt owned property/electricity, which is alright, I thought—Kool Herc/Bambaataa Harlem/Bx style, or whatever.

  4. Funny how the PF review says “scores again on the streets of kinshasa” like some sort of worldmusic sex tourism…….

  5. you probably mean staff benda bilili – here they cover “sex machine”.
    the notes of the video mention “jupiter’s dance”, which i cannot recommend enough. it is the most inspiring music documentary i own – somehow completely transcends the (post-)scarcity debate and falls into “music as the human condition” category.

    that aside, the language (and i include images) of the world music circuit is fascinating – it struggles to walk the lines between orientalism, politically correct multi-culti, and ghetto/street culture (the “scoring” could refer to drug culture, not just prostitution).

  6. hey joro, yes, its indeed fascinating to what the world music circuit for all those reasons. i hope to check out Womex just to see the industry side of all that, i’m quite curious.

    lets talk soon about ‘Bath party!’

    and yeah, ‘scoring’ on the streets is more drug culture ref, FWIW.

  7. All Belgians involved in Congo were not necessarily busy cutting hands. Musicians such as Fud Candrix, Bill Alexandre and Gilbert Warnant contributed to the birth of Congolese rumba in the 50s. Benoît Quersin, bass player with Chet Baker, settled in Kinshasa in 1969, became an ethnomusicologist and recorded many amazing tracks in the field, among which the fabulous “Polyphonies Mongo” on Ocora.

  8. ahum, midnight clarity comes on wings.
    if in need for some cultural colonialism, there are always enough western labels to hunt for diamonds. with or without blood. In the sense of Congo, Belgium royally fucked it up by using the same divide-strategy of willfully categorising people as Hutsi’s or Tutsi’s, even when people were of the same tribe. When Mobutu rose to power with the help of the Americans, it wasn’t a call for better or worse. just even, but with sides switched. My grandfather -who lived and teached in Congo in the 50’s & 60’s- is still an avid hater of Mobutu rather than against the forces which were operating behind it. Blindness is a gift for the allegedly threatened white intellectual male. Ofcourse everyone forgot about Lumumba, the easy scapegoat escape for all parties involved. My grandfather still tells me ‘take good care of your pension schemes, my boy’. He in fact enjoys 2 pensions, one being paid by a Congolese government fund.
    well, where do I sign up? is there still some lost Belgian province out in the dense forests where I could act on behalf of my useless wisdom in aid of a self sufficient culture? I do ponder.

    Flashback to now. Brussels is still full of the old, now ash grey crumbling buildings erected though the diamond money from back in the Leopold heydays. It will be good to know that within 20 years, the immigrant population in the city -that is Northern, Western & Central Africans will outnumber the white indigine city tribes of Brussels. Reclaiming the streets? why not aim higher and inherit the city with it. I do reckon that immigration is the much needed, much inspired backlash on a colonial past of any western country.

    Ah yes Ocora, In India people told me stories of French academic researchers in the 70’s recording music of a Rajasthani tribe. The money that was eanred never showed for the tribe. instead was kept safely in europe and its product was heralded as an archive by the Orsay.

    Clarity of the night, clouds in surround.

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