Kongo Dia Ntotila ‘360°’ 2LP/CD (Pussyfoot) 4/5

Kongo Dia Ntotila is a London based 6 piece afro-fusion group. The music on 360°, the second album, is described by the group as ‘Afro-joy’. It’s a pretty accurate description of this mix of numerous African influences, jazz and contemporary styles.

The album opens with “Kongo”. The drum roll flows into rhythmic stabs, a question and answer passage between vocals and the rest of the group. The band is tight and the rhythm section, in particular, has an exuberant drive, lifting this from standard mundane world-fusion fodder. The rhythmic assault continues with “Agbwaya”, a slick uptempo track with the motif led by the mini brass section consisting of saxophone and trumpet. The closing section is a bed of beautiful interlocking of bass, drums and guitars under a layer of repetitive vocal exchanges. The intensity subsides a little with the breezy and tuneful “Mbongo”. The instrumental “360°” follows and is a direct descendant of fusion workouts from the 1970s. The hard-driving repetition of “Faux Boss” flowers into colourful arpeggio guitars and is a humorous revenge on folks who have exploited them in the past. “Kinshasa Makambo”s horn-based introduction quickly locks into a liquid groove by the rhythm section and guitars. The platform for the tuneful horns to shine. The dual guitar provides the substance to the straight forward reggae of “Naleli” where there’s a neat bass guitar solo. “Feti”, which apparently means party, is led by the arpeggiated guitars for once giving the track a lighter and more melodic feel. The percussive introduction to “Koupe Dekale” gives way to flowing guitars, a galloping rhythm and rapid fire horn bursts. “Mutwashi” is the smooth and satisfying closer to the release with grand vocal lines and Latin horns. The performances are impressive in their complexity and intensity and although I’ve yet to see them in concert, I expect the live show is an exciting experience.

Kongo Dia Ntotila has chosen to associate itself with the current jazz scene in the UK capital and I can understand why. There is joy and excitement in encompassing different styles and making them their own which is common to much of the great music recently emerging from there. This album is a significant progression from the first, ‘Seben Steps To Heaven’, with a grittier, fuller sound. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of the UK ska revivalists in the late 70s with their more direct and uptempo spin of the Jamaican original. This album is clearly influenced and informed by the UK urban experience and is a celebration of London as much as it is of Kinshasa.

Kevin Ward