Album Review: 'Beware The Fetish'

Aug 11, 2014
Originally published on August 11, 2014 5:51 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Kasai Allstars is a collective of musicians from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their roots lie in the Congolese interior. But their sound has been urbanized in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa. Banning Eyre has this review of the group's second release titled "Beware The Fetish."

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG, "INSTRUMENTAL")

BANNING EYRE: Picture 15 African musicians, men and women - some with painted faces, fur and raffia skirts and leggings, others in western street clothes with colorful wraps. They're performing on a mix of traditional and modern instruments, singing, dancing and acting out dramas drawn from village life in the Congolese interior.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG)

KASAI ALLSTARS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Some years back, Belgian music producer Vincent Kenis was organizing a European tour of Congolese artists. There were so many from the Kasai region that he combined musicians from five different bands - five different ethnic groups - into a single ensemble. He got push-back. Instruments had to be tuned differently. There was tension on the road. Kenis was truly surprised when he returned to Kinshasa a year later and found that Kasai Allstars had stayed together.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG)

KASAI ALLSTARS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: The buzz of a low-tuned hand drum, the plinking of metal tongues secured on a slab of hardwood, the clink of a metal bell - liberated from the constraints of any one tradition, Kasai Allstars paint vivid soundscapes full of surprising details. So why not bring in that staple of commercial Congolese music - the electric guitar?

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG, "INSTRUMENTAL")

EYRE: These are songs of daily life, money, love, tradition, marriage. In some, African spirituality confronts Christianity. This one - "Beware The Fetish" - says we suffer because our ancestors refused to obey the laws of the lord and invented their own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEWARE THE FETISH")

KASAI ALLSTARS: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: In a way, Kasai Allstars are also inventing their own laws. And really, that's what tradition is all about - connecting the past with the present while imagining a better future. So forget purity and surrender to the new ancient swoon of Kasai Allstars.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG, "INSTRUMENTAL")

BLOCK: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Beware The Fetish" by Kasai Allstars.

(SOUNDBITE OF KASAI ALLSTARS SONG, "INSTRUMENTAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.