A dark, exploratory cross-continental project...
'From Kinshasa' artwork

Formed by a couple of wheelchair bound friends from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the back story to might ring a few bells - and rightly so, as the band's Coco Ngambali and Theo Nzonza were players in the Staff Benda Bilili saga. A rag tag bunch formed around street musicians by four paraplegic frontmen, the group enjoyed two high profile albums, a world tour and a documentary, before unfortunately falling apart at the seams amidst some acrimony.

Which brings us to Mbongwana Star. 'Mbongwana' means change, a concept the duo took to heart with this new enterprise, drafting in a band of young musicians as well as teaming up with Parisian hip hip producer Doctor L for a markedly different take on their influences.

While familair touchstones remain in place, they are thouroughly eroded and inverted by Doctor L's production adding subtle,a dn not so subtle, layers of noise and distortion along with a throbbing bass presense and post punk reverb.

This collision of worlds adds a dystopian edge to the sonic battlefield, the lilting high-life guitars chiming amidst a juggernaut of deep bass, saturated percussion and ravaged european electronics. The enforced progression from Staff Benda Bilili to Mbongwana Star might've been a loss to some but this new incarnation of Ngambali and Nzonza's muse confidently steps outside the sometimes rather cozy confines of 'world' music and into the 21st Century.

8/10

Words: Nick Annan

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