Joel Makeci came to live in Missoula in 2016 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recently released this album. The style reminds me of Kenyan benga music, far different from the overdriven likembe (thumb pianos) and heavy drumming that Konono Nr. 1 (another DRC band) is known for and whose urban intensity and tonal similarities to the Rhode Island noise duo Lightning Bolt helped launch their career in the west. That’s about as far as my ethnomusicology goes—admittedly, I’m pretty unstudied—but what I do know is that Makeci’s music is airy and joyful. It features a beautifully rhythmic guitar and strong alternating male and female vocals. The title track is one of the most naturally ebullient jams I’ve heard in years. The title is Swahili for “Let Us Praise our God,” and for devotional music, not always my bag, it’s awfully compelling.
In a week where the U.S. president called lots of war-, natural disaster- and colonization-torn parts of the world, like Congo, “shitholes,” I think spending $5 to get a record from a Congolese musician and refugee and father of five in Missoula, Montana, is a strong act of love and solidarity. First and foremost, you’ll get a beautiful piece of music.