Mérida, Yucatán — “You might be unfamiliar with Congolese rhythms, likely won’t understand the language and won’t know the vibe of Kinshasa street musicians, but trust me… Jupiter & Okwess are astonishing,” writes Bob Boilen of National Public Radio. “Their fierce energy … translates through familiar instruments of drums, bass and guitars in an astonishing performance.”
The group performs 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 in Mérida, in the Parque de la Aleman, as part of the Cervantino Festival in Yucatán.
Jupiter Bokondji, who comes from the troubled capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his band Okwess play music that feels both African and American.
Jupiter’s early musical tastes were inspired by The Jackson Five, James Brown and Kool and the Gang, plus the sounds of Motown.
Then of course there’s Congolese rumba, the popular dance music from as early as the 1940s, not too dissimilar from some Cuban music of the day. And the message of the music has been steeped in the complicated politics of the region, stumbling between chaos, anarchy and oppression, Boilen writes.
“This is urgent music. Much of it can be heard on their vibrant album Kin Sonic, released in June of this year. It’s music that stems from the gut but has thought and theatrics to flesh out the feelings. It’s music to be experienced. This is your entry point,” said the NPR writer.
The concert is free and open to the public.