Kasai Allstars in the 7th moon, the chief turned into a swimmig fish and ate the head if his enemy by magic! After Konono Nř1 and the multi-artist "Buzz 'n'Rumble" set, the incredible debut album by the Kasa‹ Allstars collective raises the ante and lifts Crammed's Congotronics series up to the next level. An unbelievable mixture of traditional acoustic instruments, electric guitars, distortion-laden thumb pianos and soulful vocals, "In The 7th Moon..." is, like Konono before it, set to draw unlikely comparison to contemporary western rock music. Congotronics 3.
Kasai Allstars hail from the same traditional/electric Kinshasa music scene as the better-known Konono No. 1. Stylistically and sonically, they're an obvious cousin of that band, building their songs around amplified likembés (thumb pianos), thudding percussion, circular rhythms, and vocal chants. Kasai Allstars add clear-toned electric guitar and xylophones, with as many as 20 musicians participating on any given track. Whereas Konono's members are all from the same tribal group, the Bazombo, Kasai Allstars include members of five different ethnic groups, incorporating the traditions of all five. The result is predictably more varied in terms of melody and overall feel-- the underlying rhythms also tend to be slower and more complex, especially with so many interlocking parts.
This is the third volume of Crammed's Congotronics series-- the first was a Konono No. 1 album, and second a compilation of many artists that included both Konono and Kasai Allstars. It undoubtedly has the year's coolest title, and it shares the only genuinely unfortunate aspect of other audio recordings of this music, which is that you can't see the dancing it accompanies. This doesn't make it less enjoyable, just less complete. At any rate, it takes about 30 seconds to hear how special their sound is on this album as the xylophones and likembés lock into a haunting minor key figure, the percussion hammers away to propel the call-and-response chanting and the ethereal guitars dance weightlessly on top. It gives the sense of a constantly descending chord progression in spite of the fact that cycles continuously back to its starting point.
Once you get into the overall sound, the joy of listening to the record is in the search for the details, the intricacies of how the music is arranged and played. The slit and resonator drums tend not to be rhythmic drivers so much as accents or even lead instruments. At a moment of rhythmic tension, a hard staccato phrase on the deepest drum (which, as I understand it, often signifies a change in the dance) triggers a subtle shift-- musically, it's a similar function to that of the pitched drums in Senegalese mbalax music. One of the album's most stunning extended moments, though, may actually be "Tshitua Fuila Mbuloba", when all the instruments go silent for an a cappella passage. Over the course of the song, voices unite and then disperse into a polyphonic choral movement, following in a strong choral music tradition in Kasai-- check Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin's Missa Luba album on él Records for a different take on it.
This album is a vital addition to the Congotronics series, and anyone who's enjoyed the series so far needs to hear it. For beginners, Konono No. 1 might serve as a more natural point of entry-- that group made the world stage first because of its immediate parallels with rock and funk, whereas the average Western listener will probably have to listen a little harder to understand Kasai Allstars. That said, you won't have to listen too hard to get it, as it's very naturally enjoyable music, it just comes from a different mindset structurally. At any rate, it's an excellent, diverse recording that adds a fantastic new chapter to an already fascinating story.
— Joe Tangari, August 29, 2008