KOKOKO! ‎– Fongola (and BlueDot 2019)

I received a yellow vinyl version of Fongola by KoKoKo! a couple of weeks ago via my Rough Trade subscription and I didn’t get to play it more than once before I headed to Hong Kong and then the festival. It was coincidence, a useful one, that they were playing as to receive a new album and get to see the band shortly after is pretty cool.

A wind of change is blowing over the cultural landscape of Kinshasa.

An amazing alternative scene is thriving far for the occidental fantasies of “world music”…

It is explosive and vibrant. These sounds are emanating from the ghetto and downtown clubs of the Congolese capital in between the government-imposed power cuts. The artists actually bring something alive in the chaos of the 3rd biggest african city. They have strong new ideas with DIY constructed instruments and a powerful and unique drive. This movement is more expressive, lively, spontaneous and direct compared to most big cities’ scenes, like London, Berlin etc… It’s raw, free and open creatively more like NYC in the 70s and 80s or Berlin in the 90s if it has to be compared to artistic movements. It’s inventing everything from nothing and it’s happening now and you can experience it through the recordings, the videos and KOKOKO!‘s incredible live shows.

The above is from the BlueDot write up. So it was a lively and energetic performance and I really enjoyed it. I’m listening to the album again now and it does benefit from better production than the live show (which is to be expected) and I am recognising some of the tracks having heard them live.

It does actually take a lot for me to not like something, it has to be exceptionally bad in my view, but this isn’t. Though there is a little repetitivness, in the repetiton of the band name in many of the songs for example, it isn’t a problem at all and even though I have no idea what the subject matter of each song is, they all seem to have a sense of joy about them.

Blue Dot Festival 2019 – Day 1 – Friday

I arrived back from a week in Hong Kong late on the 18th and early on the 19th I was driving to Macclesfield, specifically Jodrell Bank, for the Blue Dot Festival 2019, there was no time for jet lag despite having travelled for 26 hours to get home.

For the first time ever, and because I’m old now, I booked a tent in the boutique camping area for myself and my son. On the face of it, it was not good value, but it was close to the festival area, had clean toilets and showers, a charging area for phones and suchlike as well as its own little cafe/Bar. This was essentially it:

So I think the tent worked out at about £500 for 3 nights, which is more than a quite nice hotel, the ticket price was over and above this. It was useful to have nearby parking as well and it was almost worth it, for the convenience rather than comfort as it wasn’t particularly. To be honest it’s been 35 years since I’ve been to a festival and by comparisson this was bloody luxury.

We went for a little walk as soon as we had arrived and dropped our bags in the tent, which is when I discovered my brilliant idea of bringing wellington boots was a flawed one, they were incredibly uncomfortable due to the lining having come out and, worse of all perhaps, they had a hole in them which I discovered 2 minutes after leaving the tent walking through this:

By the time we returned a few hours later all signs of grass had disappeared to be replaced by 2 or 3 inches of mud.

Below is the line-up for the weekend, and to be honest, Friday nights headliners weren’t of that much interest to me so I decided to wander around the other stages to see if there was anything interesting.

Before that though we grabbed something to eat, using our wristbands as this was a cashless festival. The first thing we saw was Werkha, in a tent, who was really very good and I promised myself that I’d look up some of his stuff when I got home:

After his critically acclaimed Cube & Puzzle EP landed in 2012, Werkha has been on a playful exploration in the development of his style. Following high praise early on from Gilles Peterson, Werkha signed to iconic Brighton- based label Tru Thoughts, releasing the Beacons EP, followed by his widely lauded debut album Colours of a Red Brick Raft in 2015.

Described by Urban Essence, as “ooz[ing] with creative flair, vibrancy and musical craftsmanship. It has soul, it has funk, it has feeling”. For All Hands and We Communicate were the next offerings on Tru Thoughts in 2017, with both records further incorporating the jazz influenced playfulness we’ve come to expect from the Mancunian producer. This mode of play translates effortlessly into Werkha’s vivaciously curated live shows, which blend some of the UK’s most exciting jazz musicians into the mix his own instrumental, DJ & sampling informed abilities.

With his friendly (and slightly wonky) face from up North dancing amongst the UK’s burgeoning electronic and jazz music scenes, Werkha finds himself and his art at a truly exciting intersection of UK music culture.

We then wandered over to the main stage to see a bit of Ibibio Sound Machine, who were really upbeat and positive, they were great actually and I loved the guitarists sound. This is somebody else’s video:

“Music is a universal language, but spoken language can help you think about what makes you emotional, what makes you feel certain feelings, what you want to see in the world,” says Eno Williams, frontwoman of Ibibio Sound Machine. When Williams uses both English and the Nigerian language from which her band’s name is derived for their dazzling new album Doko Mien, the group somehow produces a world of both entrancing specificity and comforting universality. A language of their own.

Long lauded for their jubilant, explosive live shows, Ibibio Sound Machine fully capture that energy and communication on Doko Mien, the follow-up to their Merge debut Uyai. In a glowing piece in the New York Times, those songs were praised for following “in the tradition of much African music, [making] themselves the conscience of a community.” By pulsing the mystic shapes of Williams’ lines through further inventive, glittering collages of genre, Ibibio Sound Machine crack apart the horizon separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and future.

In another tent we caught the end of a set by Kinkajous, who I’d never heard of, but they were great and I wish I’d managed to catch more than a couple of tracks.

Travelling through places where borders disappear, Kinkajous give birth to an innova ve path to nu-jazz. The London based quintet (led by saxophonist/ clarine st Adrien Cau and drummer/producer Benoît Parmen er, joined by pianist Maria Chiara Argirò, bassist Andres Castellanos and Jack Doherty on keys) conjure a passionate, introspec ve and powerful music, that draws from their shared love for jazz and electronica. In their quest for new sonic highways, their unique setup and and vision brought them to uncharted territories.

Having previously released two EPs, they have gained support from Gilles Peterson (Worldwide.fm), Jamie Cullum (BBC2), Don Lets (BBC 6Music), Nick Luscombe (BBC3), Chris Philips (Jazz Fm) and have been acclaimed by Stamp The Wax, London Jazz and CLASH Magazine.

The next thing I saw was Kate Tempest on the main stage. I have to say, I’m not a fan but some of it was good

Extinction Rebellion took over the stage for 5 minutes, which was fine, they left, mostly peacefully and, without intending to belittle their cause, nobody seemed to care all that much. It sort of felt like, “well done, good job, now get off”

After this the boy wanted to go and find out what ‘Squid” where about and I wanted to catch Kelley Lee Owens so we split up until we met up at the tent at the end of the night. So I bought Kelley Lee Owens debut release when it first came out and really like it so for me this was one not to miss and I did enjoy it a lot, although performing entirely solo gave a different feel and sound to the tracks and I did feel the vocal mic was a little on the low side, but it was good, loved the projections as well, they fitted exceptionally well.

At some point I caught the one song I remembered by Hot Chip, enjoyed it, then left. I saw a couple of tracks by Blanket and about 2/3 of a set by Otim Alpha. At some point I also watched the last 45 minutes of Ex Machina, which is a brilliant film with a brilliant soundtrack.

We also saw Robert Newman and his show ‘Total Eclipse of Descartes’, which was really good.
Blanket perfroming to a small audience, which was a shame as I rather like them and the deserved a better attendance.
Otim Alpha who started with a few very traditional tracks and then got all electronic beats on us. Cool set.

For some reason, John Hopkins, who was second on the bill, didn’t perform until 12:50. I went to the tent to see him, it was heaving, I was very tired by now and I dissapontedly gave up and went back to the tent to give my feet some relief from the pain and cold they were suffering and to have a nice lie down. The air mattress did not actually allow a nice lie down so I just had a horrible lie down instead.

It was a realy nice atmosphere all day, people were very friendly and I didn’t see a single incident of concern, so that was nice. I should also point out that the Radio Telescope is bloody impressive and makes for a great backdrop to a gig.