Jupiter and Okwess – Kin Sonic

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/

There’s something striking about the Congolese musician Jean-Pierre Bokondji (aka Jupiter), his tall gangly frame and growling voice as deep as the ocean being his most notable features.  A formidable presence on stage, the singer commands attention, whilst his band Okwess (Kibunda for ‘food’), provides enough punch to ensure there’s no confusing them for merely a backing band.  On this second album, the follow up to Hotel Univers (2013), we find the Kinshasa-born singer determined to take giant strides through his own Congolese roots, based on the traditional rumba-styled dance music of the Congo, which this band treats to an infectious contemporary rock feel.  If the hysterical laughter at the beginning of “Emikele Ngamo”, as well as elsewhere on the record, reflects the positive mood of both Jupiter and his band, then by contrast, the impassioned vocal performance on “Pondjo Pondjo” demonstrates Jupiter’s versatility as a performer and emphasises the fact that there’s definitely room for a more soulful and reflective side to his music.  The sheer energy of “Bengai Yo”, in which Jupiter utilises stories and parables to denounce injustice, doesn’t so much etch its message into your soul as scratch it in deep with six inch nails, with a determined guitar riff and infectious rhythm.  Produced by Marc-Antoine Moreau and featuring Damon Albarn on keyboards, the eleven tracks demonstrates a musician who means business with a band of musicians only too eager to share Jupiter’s vision with a cover designed by Massive Attack’s 3D (Robert Del Naja).