Do you remember when Alt-J and Django Django hit the indie scene in the summer of 2012? They each had such a unique sound that it was difficult to describe them and even harder to find apt comparisons.
I’m having the same issue now as I try to write about KONGOS, the band of four brothers from South Africa that has put out a pair of albums filled with all sorts of influences — some foreign, some domestic.
As much as I hate referencing Rolling Stone, it’s where I was introduced to KONGOS. In a story about how Shazam has become a great predictor for hit songs, the brothers were mentioned as a band about to break in America.
And, since I can’t think of a better way to describe the group, here is how Rolling Stone characterized it online: “a Balkan accordionist, a Burundi drummer, an American slide guitarist and a British rock star walk into a bar; high-octane folk-pop ensues.”
The Brothers Kongos were born in South Africa and spent their childhood there and in London before eventually picking up sticks and heading to the States, settling in the Phoenix area.
Since 2003, the group has been playing live sets all over Arizona and California, with the occasional jaunt to South Africa. Despite releasing a self-titled debut album in 2007, the band didn’t set out on a proper nationwide tour until September 2012, following the release of their sophomore album, Lunatic.
It’s taken almost two years, but that album is finally starting to gain some traction. The above single is the second track on the disc. Seemingly three songs in one, it gives listeners a good idea of KONGOS’ array of influences.
The two things that stand out the most in KONGOS’ music are the accordion and the heavy, tribal drum beat. The latter is particularly prominent on “I’m Only Joking”, the opening track from Lunatic. (If you’re the impatient type, just skip to the 0:40 mark to hear the song start.)
If Shazam is correct, then KONGOS are primed to blow up this summer. They just passed through the Midwest last month, including a stop at The Cubby Bear in Chicago. They have a few dates booked around the country in the spring before hitting the festival scene this summer.