• The heart of the Congo in Africa has been in turmoil for ages. Ongoing wars between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples, as well as military coups and famine, have rocked the two nations under this banner. We’ll take a look first at the artists of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire.

     

    Mbongwana Star


    A band where everyone is a Jimmy Page?! The brightness would almost be too much to bear in any other situation. But the members of this group, whose name translates to change star, are all icons in their own rights. The analogy comes from producer Liam Farrell, who marveled at the collective’s natural flow and energy. Their electronic reverie matched with native tongues in a package that causes tastemakers like NPR to go nuts. Even more remarkable is that many of the members are wheelchair-bound. That doesn’t stop them from performing at major events such as Coachella.

     

    Ferre Gola

    Ferre Gola also answers to Le Padre (“godfather”) for good reason: His rapidly changing tempos, sky-bound vox and cadre of break-dancers crown him the king of Kinshasa. He was discovered as a youth performing at a fair and from there grew his fan base. Think the Weeknd with rumba rhythms. His latest single is the silky “Tucheze.”

     

    M’bilia Bel

    From the king to the queen. M’Bilia Bel has earned her title as ruler of the soukous scene, from the French “to shake.” Bel is the DRC’s Aretha Franklin and Gloria Estefan all rolled into one show-stopping being. And like many legends, she has fearlessly experimented with other sounds, incorporating rap and electronica into 2011’s The Queen. All hail M’bilia.

     

    Baloji

    “Optimism is vigilant,” raps Baloji, an auteur from DRC who now lives in Belgium. It’s this perspective that has turned him into an international beacon. Trip-hop meets jazz and European melodies in his works, which have been lauded by The Guardian, The New York Times and many other prestigious outlets. You can get his 2015 EP, 64 Bits and Malachite, on iTunes.

     

    Gasandji Rever

    Armed with a heavenly voice and an androgynous look, Gasandji is every bit a shining star. Singing in French, English and Lingala, the mysterious artist conjures up Bjork and India.Arie in a mystical boudoir. Her name means “she who awakens consciousness,” a gift that presents itself in each of her transcendent songs. (Lead image by Gaela Blandy.)

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