Mingiedi Mawangu, the founder of the influential “Congotronics” collective Konono Nº1, passed away Wednesday night in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the band confirmed on Facebook. He was 85. No cause of death was given. “[Mawangu] founded Konono Nº1 in the 1960s and invented his own electrified likembe, which gave Konono Nº1 its distinctive sound,” the band wrote. “He led the band and toured with them until a few years ago. He will be dearly missed by his son Augustin and the rest of the band. The funeral will take place next week.”
Konono Nº1 was formed in the Seventies, when Mawangu, a truck driver and likembé (thumb piano) master, recruited Congolese musicians to perform an electrified version of the dance music native to the area. It wouldn’t be until four decades later that the band’s unique mix of trance and Zombo ritual tunes would find ears across the Atlantic, when Crammed Discs released Konono Nº1’s iconic Congotronics LP in 2005; their follow-up Assume Crash Position arrived in 2010.
Following the success of Congotronics, Konono Nº1 were handpicked by Björk to serve as her opening act during a 2007 tour after the group appeared on the Volta track “Earth Intruders.” Konono Nº1 were also among the collaborators on Herbie Hancock’s 2010 interpretation of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which won Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals at the Grammys; Konono Nº1’s LP Live at Couleur Café was also nominated for Best Traditional World Music Album at the 2008 Grammys.