It’s not much of a stretch to say that Konono N°1 is most indie-rock fans’ favorite African combo. Thanks to a series of recordings made since 2005 with Belgian producer Vincent Kenis, this Congolese group’s unique instrumentation and blend of rhythm and distortion has arguably made it a bigger name internationally than at home. Active since the ’70s, this junkyard band chants and blows whistles over microphones made from car parts while plucking noisy tones on electrified thumb pianos called likembes, accompanied by percussion banged out on cowbells, congas, and cymbals. The group then feeds these sounds through car battery—powered amps and huge megaphones on poles it calls voice-throwers. Occasionally on Konono’s new record, Assume Crash Position, vocalist Pauline Mbuka Nsiala sings melodic stanzas before the speedy, raw Kinshasa trance instrumentation kicks in and goes and goes and goes. Sure, these arrangements can feel repetitive when listening at home; live, you’ll be too busy moving to notice.
KONONO N°1 PERFORMS WITH CHEICK HAMALA DIABATE AT 8 P.M. AT THE BLACK CAT, 1811 14TH ST. NW. $20. (202) 667-4490.