KOKOKO!’s Kinshasa-inspired album, BUTU

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Pioneers of Kinshasa’s sonic revolution, KOKOKO! have released their highly anticipated second album, BUTU.

“KOKOKO! again deliver a banging, agitational rave-up that’s impossible to stay a wallflower to.” – MOJO

“With their new album, Butu, the collective builds upon and diversifies the sound of their debut with utterly compelling results.” – Far Out

“The ethos of BUTU is unabashedly maximalist, with everything turned up to 11, and decibel and distortion readings often hitting the top end of the overdriven red zone.” – The Line of Best Fit

“Everything about Kokoko is loud, frenetic and infectious.” – The Arts Desk

KOKOKO! will mark the arrival of BUTU with a busy tour schedule, which includes a Rough Trade Instore tour the week of the album release, appearances at Latitude festival and Green Man festival and their biggest London show at Village Underground on October 1 as part of Transgressive Records 20th birthday celebrations.

The Congolese city’s after-dark buzz was the inspiration behind BUTU, which means ‘the night’ in Lingala, and the experimental record dives deep into the heart of the chaotic place, celebrating the joyful and creative spirit of its inhabitants. With vocalist Makara Bianko at the helm and production from Xavier Thomas, AKA Débruit, this follow-up to Fongola finds the group channelling a more electronic, upbeat sound. BUTU is a replication of the frenetic feel of that dynamic nightlife – equipment being pushed to its limit, via saturated and distorted speakers, or the sonic push and pull of sounds after dark.

Taking field recordings from the nights and using “ready-made percussion” such as detergent bottles, the band fed the sounds through distortion to get closer to those night sounds. Album intro “Butu Ezo Ya” opens with the screech of car horns progressively pitched into harmony and the chatter of pedestrians. “Compared to Fongola, this album is intentionally way more intense, because it’s quite upbeat and quite full-on,” Thomas says. The record’s influences are also wider and span West Africa and South Africa, kuduro and kwaito and since Bianko’s global travel introduced him to new types of alternative electronic music and punk.

A track they’d played live but never recorded until now, “Mokili” expresses a sense of pride in going out there to make the world move alongside old house music references. “Salaka Bien” makes use of percussion created on heavy ceramic pots and pans, with Bianko’s lyrics firing up the audience with a sexual wink. As a phrase, “Bazo Banga” means “they’re scared”, a chant often shouted at football stadiums but put into another political context. It would often be their last track of the night, a way of letting go of the pressure accumulated during a high-energy show.

The band has a fiercely activist and political slant. The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to experience serious human rights violations, including mass killings in the context of armed conflict and inter-communal violence, a crackdown on dissent and ill-treatment of detainees. People from regions affected by armed conflict are particularly affected amid mass displacement and a deepening humanitarian crisis. The DRC’s wealth of natural resources are routinely taken advantage of by large tech companies, helping fuel conflict in the region.

Political protest using words carries a risk of imprisonment in the country, so street performers often work with their bodies and sounds to signal their critiques. With BUTU, KOKOKO! provide a resistant, punk-like energy, bottling the attitude of a generation and bringing their DRC block party alchemy to new global heights.