Like Kinshasa’s Konono Nº1 and South Africa’s Shangaan Electro before them, Dar es Salaam’s self-professed Bongo Hotheads Jagwa Music carve out an invigorating, if utterly and unapologetically unrelenting figure of frenzied dance entrancement from the traditional aural output of their native Tanzania. Paramount to the Mchiriku movement (a form of street entertainment epitomised by a bastardisation of Chakacha dance music originally brought about by Casio’s introduction of affordable gear), avant-garde lyricisms of citified labyrinths are here reduced to albeit urbane unintelligibility to the ignorant ear. But when they bound about atop such buoyant pawn shop tones cultural disparity becomes about as relevant as musicality may initially, and perhaps only superficially, seem.
A cluster of vanguardist youth, Jagwa Music provide tangible proof that in a world in which status is prescribed – to an occasionally predestined degree – by financial, or material stature cultural richness and artistic innovation cannot be bought, nor traded, nor sold. Money can’t buy you love nor happiness and yet these explicitly human sensations abundantly pour from the troupe’s every pore: Heshima serves as an indescribably efficient natural serotonin charged with a similar effect to the guzzling of a truckload of cacao; Dunia Watu pertains to a quasi-religious fervour such is its fiendishly motorik, feverish agitation; and Jagwa Watoto Wa Mjini comes across as a stampede of schoolyard whistles trampling determinedly over thrashes and thwacks of sticks on decrepit stools.
Like an East African horizon splayed out across Indian Ocean expanse, Bongo Hotheads may at times seem to be without finite conclusion as whether intentionally or incidentally each of the eight here encased is somewhat indistinguishable from its tracklisted predecessor. If that may make many an artist seem overindulgently repetitive then it here has a converse effect as the record blurs into one polychromatic, pseudo-ritualistic whole of grubby joy and such. Money can buy you this one…
Released: June 4th, 2012 [Crammed Discs]