Within the Bantu languages spoken all through Central, Jap and Southern Africa, ‘ngoma’ represents an essential a part of musical and social tradition. The literal translation is normally given as ‘drum’, nevertheless it extra precisely refers to a unified idea of drum-dance-song-music. You possibly can beat the ngoma, or sing it, or dance it, and in doing so, create ngoma. Ngoma is without delay enjoying, shifting and listening – it’s by nature reciprocal and collaborative. Tembo kia Ngoma explores the drum and its wider meanings in sound in a powerful and regarded debut from Congolese-American artist Kiazi Malonga.
The tall, tubular ngoma drum is the center of this album. Constructing layers of ngoma along with 9 different drums and percussion devices, Kiazi creates textures that fill the sonic house with out overwhelming. The rhythms – originating from seven totally different Congolese ethnic teams – always shift and section, which means that their irresistible repetition is something however repetitive.
There’s a tendency in Western music to make use of drums in a utilitarian means, offering a base rhythm from which different elements can launch. However when the drums are moved to the entrance of the stage, it’s apparent that their rhythms are inextricable from melody and concord – or moderately, that such conceptual distinctions are pointless. The ever-changing, ever-evolving nature of the polyrhythms has the identical perform as a chord sequence. Tunes kind within the listener’s personal ear, which choose particular person pitches throughout the interlocking sounds and be part of the dots to recognise recurring melodic constellations. The drum patterns develop into extra akin to three-dimensional dancing shapes. These musical moirés are conjured at each second all through this album.
Not that drums and percussion are all there’s right here. Pitched devices play their half: electrical guitars, bass, marimba and drum package come courtesy of producer Justin Phipps; Kiazi himself performs mpungui (an antelope horn blown like a trumpet) and kisansi (thumb piano); and the horn part of San Francisco collective Jazz Mafia give a stunning activate the Afrobeat-meets-NOLA monitor ‘Ntâli Jazz’. The everyday band dynamic, nevertheless, is flipped on its head. If, for instance, guitars and bass twist round one another in a darkish, fashionable soukous vibe (as on the monitor ‘Lomami’), they don’t use drums to accompany their very own fireworks, however moderately work as a grounding ostinato to maintain the groove in place as Kiazi’s drums let rip.
For Kiazi, this album helps to look again to the household, mentors, and traditions that made him, and sit up for discover his personal distinctive voice on the planet. In that means, it additionally serves as a tribute to his father, the late, beloved musician and dancer Malonga Casquelourd. The album’s finale is bittersweet however joyous: a seven-and-a-half-minute recording of Casquelourd’s 40-strong choir Fua Dia Congo singing ‘Mbongui’, taken from a VHS recording from the Nineteen Nineties. It’s easy however highly effective: simply overlapping voices, clapping, and stamping. A stark departure from the remainder of the album, nevertheless it closes it properly, sustaining the environment and exemplifying Kiazi’s core messages.
Tembo kia Ngoma is the sound of a son striding on, carrying his father’s legacy. Ngoma lightens that burden. Listening-making, moving-hearing, drum-dance-song-music: ngoma is the proper catalyst for significant, mutually-respectful collaboration between previous and future. Kiazi Malonga makes it occur, and has a load of enjoyable on the similar time.