KONONO NO. 1 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

KONONO NO. 1 

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Though this Kinshasa-based ensemble has released an album called Congotronics (Crammed Discs), its link to electronic music is tenuous at best. Konono No. 1's songs are as good as any techno for nonstop dancing, but they're rooted in Bazombo tribal tradition. The band, formed nearly 30 years ago, shouts call-and-response chants over galloping rhythms played on drums, hubcaps, handheld percussion, and three thumb pianos locally called likembes. Only the Hendrixian distortion on the likembes--the by-product of a homemade amplification system that incorporates salvaged car parts--sounds at all electronic. Apparently that's enough for Bjork, who knows a thing or two about cutting-edge dance music: she recruited the group to play on her upcoming Volta. Unfortunately, until next month you can only hear the collaboration in tiny online snippets of questionable provenance--but tonight you can see Konono No. 1 up close and personal. Unlike the ballroom where they made their Chicago debut a year and a half ago, the Empty Bottle's cozier performance space should intensify the gloriously in-the-red blare of the old bullhorn loudspeakers they carry to all their shows. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20.

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