After the extraordinary worldwide success of Konono N1, the second exponent of the electro-traditional "Congotronics" style to be presented in the West is the amazing Kasai Allstars band.
Just like Konono N1, they draw on traditional trance music, to which they've incorporated heavily-distorted sounds generated by DIY amplification of their instruments. But, coming from an area which is musically very rich, they use diverse rhythms, timbres and instrumentation: the trademark electrified thumb pianos are joined by an array of buzzing drums, swirling guitars and hypnotic balafons.
Kasai Allstars is a collective which regoups members from several other bands, including Masanka Sankayi and Basokin. They all originate from Kasai (a Congolese province the size of France), but come from very diverse musical traditions, such as the Luba and the Lulua, which were thought to be incompatible until these musicians decide to put their resources together and form this "supergroup".
As a result, their live show is particularly impressive, as the band includes a variety of singers and soloists who all perform in their own styles. The dancers' spectacularly erotic performances are also noteworthy.
Kasai Allstars are heavily featured in the acclaimed album "Congotronics 2: Buzz'n'Rumble in the Urb'n'Jungle", as 5 out of the 9 tracks are either by them or by their "sub-groups" Masanka Sankayi and Basokin.
The first full-length Kasai Allstars album is being recorded now by Congotronics producer Vincent Kenis, and is scheduled for release in the autumn of 2007 .
Kasai Allstars' line-up of 15 includes two electric guitars, two electric likembes, two balafons, four percussionists, five dancers, and the following lead singers:
Tandjolo is from the Tetela region, which links Kasai to the Equator province. His lokole (a deep-sounding trapezoidal slit drum hung across the shoulder and played while standing up) is at the same time a very versatile bass drum (it plays 8 different notes), a demanding dancing partner (it weights a ton), and a giant cell phone (lokoles were traditionally used for long-distance conversations). Tandjolo is also a very gifted atalaku (singer/shouter/entertainer).
Exhilarating, raucous and intense, Muambuyi's singing style contrasts sharply with most Congolese female vocalists, usually confined to the restrained but sexy housewife image. Muambuyi is also considered as one of the best dancers of West Kasai.
Muyamba Nyunyi and Kabongo Tshisense (Masanka Sankayi's two front-men) have been together as a duet since the Seventies. Dancers, singers, story-tellers, their wry sense of humor comes out best in Tshiluba but also in French : check Congotronics 2 for Kabongo's very own rendition of a XVIIe century fable by Jean de la Fontaine. Muyamba is also an excellent bass likembe player.
Basokin frontman Mputu 'Mi Amor' is a renowned spokeman for the Kasai community as well as one of its sharpest social commentators ; he's a great dancer, too (with the red dress on).