Kenge Kenge | SPACE | International | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sun., July 18, 8 p.m. 2010
Price: $22
This Kenyan ensemble, which began its life as the backing group for a state-sponsored choir and became Kenge Kenge in the early 90s, has a fascinating but peculiar take on benga music, the guitar-driven dance style that arose in the mid-20th century and has dominated Kenyan pop since the 60s. Benga evolved in part from the traditional music of the Luo, one of the country's largest ethnic groups, and Kenge Kenge purposely undo some of that evolution, using ancient Luo instruments instead of rock-style drum kits and electric guitars—on the group's 2007 debut album, Introducing Kenge Kenge (Introducing), electric bass is the sole concession to modern music technology in a lineup that includes orutu (fiddle), asili (flute), oporo (horn), and nyangile (gong) as well as a heap of traditional percussion. Unison vocals create rich melodic patterns, and the lush sonic fabric woven by the front-line instruments sparkles with high harmonies. Yet Kenge Kenge's rigorous, minimalist dance music, with its irresistible bumping rhythms and cycling grooves, is not only folkloric but thoroughly contemporary. The beats are tightly layered and intricate, and there's something about their hypnotizing relentlessness—and the group's rough-hewn, homemade sound—that recalls Congolese group Konono No. 1. Kenge Kenge also plays Sunday at Evanston's Ethnic Arts Festival. These shows are their Chicago debut. —Peter Margasak



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