Sept. 7, 2018 | Bob Boilen — Stop. Watch. Listen! You might be unfamiliar with Congolese rhythms, likely won’t understand the language and won’t know the vibe of Kinshasa street musicians, but trust me… Jupiter & Okwess are astonishing. Their fierce energy here at the Tiny Desk translates through familiar instruments of drums, bass and guitars in an astonishing performance.
Jupiter Bokondji comes from the troubled capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Jupiter and his band Okwess play music that feels both African and American, with Jupiter’s early musical tastes inspired by The Jackson 5, James Brown and Kool and the Gang, plus the sounds of Motown. It’s music he heard while shuttling back and forth with his family between Tanzania , Dar es Salaam and East Berlin. His father was an attaché at the Congolese embassy there.
Then of course there’s Congolese rumba, the popular dance music from as early as the 1940s, not too dissimilar from some Cuban music of the day. And the message of the music has been steeped in the complicated politics of the region, stumbling between chaos, anarchy and oppression.
This is urgent music. Much of it can be heard on their vibrant album Kin Sonic, released in June of this year. It’s music that stems from the gut but has thought and theatrics to flesh out the feelings. It’s music to be experienced. This is your entry point.
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri, CJ Riculan, Khun Minn Ohn; Editor: Khun Minn Ohn; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Samantha Clark/NPR.