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Jupiter Okwess Shares ‘Bengai Yo’, Featuring Damon Albarn and Warren Ellis

written by Mark Doyle September 19, 2016

New EP ‘Troposphere 13’ released November 11th

Listen to the new track ‘BENGAÏ YO’

Discovered in 2006 thanks to Jupiter’s Dance, a documentary about the new music scene in Kinshasa, and still one of its iconic—even heroic—members, Jupiter Bonkodji is back with Troposphere 13, three years after the release of the exuberant Hotel Univers, the album that launched his international career. On this 6-track EP, the Congolese Don Quixote defies everything, gloom, doom, but also… the laws of gravity.

In fact, the launch of this EP is related indirectly to the space programme begun in the Democratic Republic of Congo and which, ten years later, ‘culminated’ in the launch of the Troposphere 5 rocket with the rat Kavira on board.

While the space programme itself came to an abrupt and memorably embarrassing end (the rocket veered off course, almost killing a number of onlookers when it fell back to Earth, and the rat Kavira was never found again), it has inspired Jupiter to take this new decisive step forward in a rising artistic career.

Powered by Okwess International, his group since 1994, with dazzling boosts and controlled crescendos, Jupiter continues to explore the immense wealth of traditional Congolese rhythms through which he filters the electrifying stridency of the rock inherited from his European past (the son of a diplomat, he spent part of his childhood in Germany).

A trance ferryman and genuine trad-modern alchemist, Jupiter is still that rebellious soul, that heightened consciousness, a tireless local campaigner through different social aid projects, and whose lyrics express the wisdom of benevolence.

For example, ‘Musonsu’ (the nail) praises the virtues of solidarity, which is still indispensable in Africa although all too often neglected. ‘The nail is used to hold things together. It is important that we stay together’, argues the singer, whose message of unity, a common thread in all his songs, takes on particular meaning on the eve of general elections in this Republic of Congo called democratic, where basic fundamental freedoms are often ignored by political power. This unflinching, courageous citizen reflection, given the context, is also present in ‘Ngandjo’ and ‘Bengaï Yo’, veritable fables of injustice in daily life.

These three titles, and also the frenetic ‘Lourds’, are interspersed with the impish keyboards of Damon Albarn, Jupiter’s friend since the joint album Kinshasa One Two released under the Africa Express label for Oxfam in 2011.

Another extra-Congolese guest, Warren Ellis, Nick Cave’s faithful companion in the Bad Seeds and Grinderman, brings his violin to tinge the beautiful ‘Pondjo Pondjo’ with notes of melancholy and lend iridescent tones to the feminist ‘Nzele Momi’. Produced by Marc Antoine Moreau, recorded at the Davout studio in Paris by François Gouverneur and Clément Tamal, Troposphère 13 (a half- bragging, half-ironic allusion to the Apollo 13 mission) breaks the sound barrier that, until now, has kept Katanga guitars and rock energy apart, lifting the incredible Jupiter into orbit once again, a UFO of contemporary African music inhabited simultaneously by the fighting instinct of Fela Kuti and the moralistic fibre of Jean de La Fontaine.

Tracklisting:
1.Pondjo Pondjo
2. Musonsu
3. Ngandjo
4. Yo Bengaï
5. Lourds
6. Nzele Momi

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