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Congo Archives - Online education for kids

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Tag Archives | Congo

It Started With Congolese Rumba

More Congolese music, this time with Le Grand Kalle….

Earlier this week we met the dynamic Congolese music called soukous. It emerged in the years after World War II, starting in the ’50s when big Cuban rumba orchestras became all the rage in the Congo. By the ’60’s musicians like Joseph “Le Grand Kalle” Kabasele who we see in this video, readily blended rumba with African jazz, and formed a genre sometimes known as Congolese Rumba. Soukous emerged when innovators such as Sam Mangwana layered funky African rhythms and racing, jangling guitars on top.

Soukous Makes the World Go ‘Round

Let’s dance dance dance with Congo’s soukous icons Zaiko Langa Langa….

We’ll spend much of this week immersing ourselves in the Congo‘s gorgeous music. Central African music’s soul comes from its dense natural landscape and from the ancient earth-inspired rhythms of the people who live on that land. Even so, music in the region is far from insular. In fact, the most famous (and most fabulous?) music of Central Africa may be soukous. Originating mainly in the urban centers of Congo, but now present in most every small city and sleepy tribal town, soukous is infinitely danceable. For a taste, enjoy this video of soukous legends Zaiko Langa Langa.

The Tale of Two Congos

All Around This World Map of Africa featuring the Congo

Our travels for this week’s online class take us to the two countries carved from the massive and still-mysterious rainforest called the Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered at the hands of “kleptocratic” dictators and a series of horrendous military conflicts that have drawn in several of its African neighbors and has become known as “Africa’s World War.” Republic of the Congo has been comparatively politically stable since the ’60s when it gained independence from France and became a Marxist state. In class we find musical inspiration in both and DANCE!

A Bridge From Congo to Cuba

Why is there such a deep connection between Cuba and the Congo, one that would inspire Congolese musicians — like Congolese music master Kanda Bongo Man — develop an African version of rumba?

During the colonization of the Americas most slaves came from West and Central Africa, bringing their African rhythms with them. Over the centuries Afro-Latin musicians often returned to their roots by touring in the region and by building cultural and instrumental connections with West and Central African musicians. Perhaps because of this shared history, in the 1960s Latin Americas most prominent Communist revolutionaries, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, supported Congolese anti-colonalialist struggles–Fidel by sending Cuban troops, Che by sending himself. Let’s watch this video of “revolutionary” musician Kanda Bongo Man inspiring Africans to dance.

We Remember Congo

On a rainy day with nothing to do, why don’t you bring out your Lukasa memory board?

All Around This World's Lukasa Memory Board

We end our week of music class in the Congo by playing a game. The Luba people of Central Africa archive their cultural identity using traditional form of art known as the “lukasa memory board.” The wooden board is a literal platform for capturing an important community memory. Artists start with a blank board then attach beads, shells and other available materials in traditionally metaphoric patterns. Those who can interpret the patterns understand them as a way to tell a story about a particular chiefdom, such as its major historical events, structures and philosophical beliefs.

All Around This World has created a game based upon the memory board, giving you and your kids the chance to make memories like the Luba. Learn how to play here.

Kwassa Kwassa What What?

Very clearly our favorite Congolese dance is the kwassa kwassa:
Kwassa kwassa is the primary dance of Congolese Soukous, in which the legs shake, the hips roll around and the hands follow the hips’ motion. This Congolese dance originated in the 1970s and became popular all over Africa in the ’80s. The name for the dance may have come from the French “Quoi ça”? (what’s that?). The kwassa kwassa appeared almost two decades after the Congos became independent, but, as we see in this video, its relationship to soukous makes it feel like it celebrates freedom.

A New Indpendence Cha Cha

Contemporary Congolese musician Baloji is a blast from the past.

“Independence Cha Cha” is an optimistic African independence song from the Belgian Congo that struck a chord in Francophone African countries that were just becoming independent in the early 1960s. The original version is by Le Grand Kallé, known as the “Father of Congolese Music,” who first performed it during talks with the Belgians that set the date for Congo‘s independence. In this video Congolese hip hop artist Baloji updates the song, reminding us that a whole lot has happened in Central Africa since.