Congo: We’ve got the power!’, rap moves to take on rumba

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Congolese hiphop enthusiasts have flocked to Kinshasound, one of Kinshasa’s few local recording studios at the heart of a wave of new rap music

It is a conflict at once cultural, generational and political: rap music in DR Congo is staging a frontal assault on rumba, accusing its ageing stars of only singing of love and other banalities.

DRC’s growing army of rappers say their urban lyrics reflect a gritty realism edged with angst as one of Africa’s biggest and most unstable nations heads towards a troubled presidential election.

At the back of a courtyard in Bandal, a popular and trendy district of the capital Kinshasa, a DJ called DDT has opened Kinshasound, a recording studio which is about the size of a toilet.

 

    John weasle ©️Afp

At the mixing deck, beat maker Kratos is playing around with a mix of ethnic rhythms caught somewhere between the big sounds of the Bronx and the driving drumbeats of Afrobeat or Afro-Trap.

This tiny studio has attracted rap artists like Sista Becky, Alesh and Magneto, who electrified the crowds at last month’s Red One urban music festival in Kinshasa.

A video-clip involving an actor covered in condoms for Belgium singer and artist Baloji, who is part of a wave of Congolese rap

But Kinshasound has also attracted other visitors — among them officials responsible for music and events at the national censorship board who shut it down in August, DDT explains.

It was eventually reopened after a series of negotiations, which involved handing over some cash.

And their complaint? That DDT was producing “obscene songs which were an offence to common decency” and violated a law on censorship dating back to 1996.

– ‘The boss got no heart’ –

“I asked them which (lyrics were problematic) and they didn’t know what to tell me,” DDT said — although he himself has a pretty good idea.