Up-and-coming

Nkisi

It’s usually the bigger fish we talk about; the musicians we already know, the ones playing after the supporting programme. As Subbacultcha’s all about discovering the new, the up-and-coming, the fresh and the innovating, we decided to dedicate a space to them once a month, highlighting the way in which they enrich our hearing. First up is Melika Ngombe Kolongo, aka Nkisi. She’s a DJ slash producer and co-founder of NON Worldwide, a subversive collective born out of the African diaspora. Raised in Belgium, she now lives in London where she’s a resident of night club Endless, a place known for its doomcore and gabber connoisseurs.

By Blanche Didier

Nkisi’s music reflects the mystical name she chose to impersonate her style she describes ‘a synthesist of new hardcore sounds’. Born in Congo, she curiously grew up in Leuven where she acquired a well-pronounced taste for heavy doomcore and fast-paced music. As she flows from heavy layered trance synths and thunder-like drums to Central and West African club tracks, Nkisi’s musical horizon explores many global dance styles that often play with collective memory. The Dark Orchestra, a breath taking mix she released last summer, gives a pretty good overview of the potential of her untamed beats:

The political, disrupting tone that resonates in her tracks has been designed as a blasting call to think and reflect on today’s Westernized, patriarchal society. This political statement meant the starting point of NON Records, the label she co-founded with Angel-Ho and Rabit. As they told in an interview with The Fader, ‘in no uncertain terms, the intent of NON is to run counter to current Western hyper capitalist modes of representation and function, exorcising the language of domination through the United Resistance of policed and exotified coloured bodies’.

Rather than thinking of NON as a record label, it’s actually more accurate to perceive them as a social movement, sprouted from the marginalisation and traumatic experiences their founders share as their respective homes –London, America and South Africa– have had a common past of white-supremacism and colonialism.

Through her music, Nkisi (and the other NON members) aim at disrupting the current establishment in the music industry, which often crushes creativity to the profit of a well-polished musical status quo that alienates the true message of African and Afrodiasporic musicians.

When listening to Nkisi, don’t expect to embark on a sea of comfortably numb tracks. Instead, prepare to  become submerged in a dissenting, militant universe that’ll put you ill-at-ease, and will undoubtebly question the deeper meaning in her tracks. Nonetheless, the confrontational aspect of Nkisi’s music shouldn’t be mistaken for a blank desire to express violence and rejection. Behind her thought provoking approach actually lies a healing process through which Nkisi evacuates personal traumas, while simultaneously reaffirming her differences and refusing confinement in the established status quo.

The choice of ‘Nkisi’ as a stage name also represents this symbolic healing process, as it reflects the diversity of her musical inspirations. She told Truants Nkisi was a pre-colonial power figure from Congo, a statue inhabited by spiritual powers that was used as medicine for witch doctors. The Nkisi also served as proof when a contract had been sealed, by slamming a nail into the sculpture. ‘I think I’ve always been fascinated by those sculptures because in Western eyes it looks really scary, as it’s this kind of angry sculpture that’s really frightening. I just really like how the object has a lot of layers.’

It’s songs like ‘Et Pourtant elle tourne’ and ‘WOC’ that exhale a gripping sincerity that will leave none indifferent. For those who will see her play in Vooruit, her performance will certainly resonate long after it’s over. As she put it to The Fader, ‘Bear the burden of truth like nails into your body’. Something to think about.

Nkisi and Moor Mother play Vooruit, Ghent on 31 March. The show is free for members. Become a member here.