When American-Sierra Leonean DJ and producer Boima Tucker first came across thumb piano player Sorie Kondi via a YouTube link in 2007, he was transfixed. "I was struck by his beautiful vocals and socially-conscious lyrics," Tucker writes of the first time he heard "Without Money, No Family." "These incredible melodies he was playing on his namesake thumb piano, the kondi, sealed the deal. I immediately decided to remix it." Tucker's roots in the Midwest's techno scene turned out to be the perfect compliment to Kondi's work. That remix took the mesmeric, understated original and sent it spinning, adding subtle, pulsating beats and building minimally to a frantic mix of bleeps and synths, Kondi's vocals atop it all.
That mix made its way around the underground and eventually found its way to The Fader via a guest mix. But it took five years for blind Siera Leonean thumb piano player and singer Kondi to make it to America for a five-date tour via a Kickstarter campaign. It was then that Kondi Band, a full collaboration between Tucker and Kondi, came into being.
The Kondi Band's debut album, Salone—premiering on Noisey today—sees the collaboration fully realized. "No Money, No Family" appears on the record and its synthesis still catches. But the duo's sound has flourished over the past half-decade. Kondi's thumb piano is more prominent and more wholly integrated, its rich percussiveness a more natural fit than ever for Boima's beats. Opener "Yeanoh (Powe Handa Blingabe)" is propelled by the depths of Kondi's voice with Chief Boima's creaking flourishes filling out the mix; "Belle Wahalla" glitches and throbs while keeping the thumb piano's unique tone central. Standout track "Geibai Gpanga Ne Gna" retains all of this while adding a gentle horn section that interacts with the Kondi's beautiful vocal syncopations.
"This album forges a direct link between techno born in the black cities of the American Midwest, where I grew up, and roots African music," Boima writes. "Sorie Kondi may be playing an acoustic folk instrument from Sierra Leone, but he thinks about music as if he were a techno producer.
Listen to the album in full below. You can purchase it via Strut Records right here.
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