Kwes: “My time in Kinshasa fills my heart with joy each time I think of it.”

04.11.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

I’m holding in my hand a physical manifestation of what I was involved in back in July in Central Africa, Kinshasa One Two by DRC Music, which you can buy here.

Time really does fly, and whenever I recall the experience over in Kinshasa, I am reminded me of time’s brevity, as well as to make the most of everything I have in my life. I am truly well off.

I was actually meant to write a day-to-day diary live for Dummy whilst I was out there, but I became so engrossed in the creative/recording process and was in almost constant awe of the surrounding infrastructure, opulence through one road and destruction down another, to put it succinctly. Add to that the general resourcefulness of the community despite the inherent financial difficulties, and the superhuman musicianship and ingenuity of the Congolese musicians and their unique instruments, I found it pretty much impossible to document my day-to-day experience there. What I was thinking and feeling for the most part would be unintelligible and disheveled if put into prose. “asdhgajhdgfOMGZOMLOLDZROF(£&(&***k” does not an article make.

A stark standout moment, for me on the trip, was being taken to a gig (thanks to the incredibly helpful & knowledgeable Congolese filmmakers Florent de La Tullaye and Renaud Barret ) in a bewildering, bullet-holed shack in the late evening of the 2nd night there to witness some of the most unbridled, passionate and visceral performances of rhythmic Congolese music. It was a mélange of what we would know over here as rock, soul, rhythm & blues and funk, played by ex-bank robbers, who were both hospitable and accommodating.

I’m particularly not comfortable at all using the word “funk” to describe most music, as I feel the word is used so lightly too often – it’s a precursor to most pop music we listen to – but this particular moment, alongside many other encounters with music I witnessed in Kinshasa, embodied what funk truly is for me. I recently read that it is said to have come from the Congolese Kikongo word/expression lufuki, which means both a strong or offensive odour and an expression of high praise for someone’s creative work or discoveries, so I almost feel like I had experienced the funk in its fully reduced, pure form. An unforgettable evening.

On a not too separate note, I also took with me some music that I loved to listen to on the flights to and from Congo, and at the hotel we were staying. Whenever I wasn’t listening back to the astounding music and sounds coming from the recording sessions and outings throughout Kinshasa, and I have made a mix of that music for you all to listen to. All of it, some, or maybe none of it will be familiar to you. Within the mix I’ve also included some conversation excerpts I had recorded out there, particularly some with the inimitable Actress, and an awesome hotel porter whose name I can’t remember, which is hugely frustrating. Language barriers were joyfully breached and general fun times were had. There is also a short one with the lovely Raakhi of Oxfam & journalist Josh. I’ve written brief descriptions under each excerpt.

My time in Kinshasa, and with everyone involved is one that will never be forgotten, and will fill my heart with joy each time I think of it.

Kwes – Smuggled Through Customs Mixthing by DummyMag

“Smuggled Through Customs Mixthing (for Dummy Magazine)”

1. Customs (featuring Bokatola System) – DRC Music.
2. (Excerpt) Kwes, Actress & THE Hotel Porter bond over Nkoyi
(We try to describe what music we were making to the porter. He introduced us to Nkoyi Beer with the leopard logo. Plenty was consumed over the week. I add an emphatic THE, as he was awesome.)
3. Nabed Nade Ei Piny Ka (Rework) – Owiny Sigoma Band
4. If You Wish To Stay Awake (featuring Washiba) – DRC Music
5. Raakhi, Kwes, & Josh talk drums
(Hopefully Raakhi will find the time to start hitting stuff and “find the funk”)
6. Lucky Cloud – Arthur Russell
7. All Your Love – Hudson Mohawke
8. The King’s new clothes were made by his own hands – Shabazz Palaces
9. (Excerpt) THE Hotel Porter’s love of Congo and downtime
(Hotel porter talks on his love of the country, asks whether it’s our first time in Congo, then jokes of his awareness of people smoking weed in Jamaica, and looking forward to finishing work to relax and have some smokes after 11pm.)
10. The First Garden – Stevie Wonder
11. Believe – CANT
12. I Care – Beyoncé
13. Romance Layers – Gang Gang Dance
14. (Excerpt) THE Hotel Porter’s love of Congo Women
(Hotel porter is displaying his sharp mind, languidly referring to the women in Congo as “honk honks”, which I didn’t pick up on until after listening back to the conversation. I was hopelessly trying to make sense of what he said at the time. In defence, me and Actress were feeling pretty tired having just arrived after a 10+ hour flight.)
15. Love Is – Donnie & Joe Emerson
16. Departure (featuring Bokatola System) – DRC Music
17. Mescalin Mix (Excerpt) – Terry Riley