Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I listen to a lot more African music in the summer than at any other point in the year. I mean, sure, no matter what the weather's like there are times when Fela's records absolutely call out to you, but generally, I find the lilting guitars and gentle but insistent rhythms of King Sunny Adé work best when I'm looking for something that'll make me walk slow, to keep from sweating so much that I look like a serial rapist or something. Anyway, unequivocal recommendation time: you will find no finer summer CD than Kenge Kenge's Introducing Kenge Kenge (World Music Network). They're a Luo group from Kenya, playing all-acoustic music that's at the root of the country's benga dance music, and this CD is kicking my ass but good. Kenge Kenge is everything I thought Konono No. 1 would be—powerful, trance-like grooves, percussion thundering in my skull as high-pitched, almost distorted melodies careen all over the place and chanted vocals play off each other. Except where Konono's 15-minute jams just get boring after about 90 seconds, and the novelty of their distorted junkyard likembes wears off only slightly more slowly, Kenge Kenge's all-acoustic sound, with violins and flutes the melodic instruments, is like fife-and-drum music amped up to 11 and pounded out by methed-up lunatics. Seriously, this is gonna be one of my albums of the year no matter what else comes out in the next six months. Get yourself one and crank it up. This ain't no easygoing shit - this is killer.

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