Jupiter & Okwess

Born 1965, Jupiter Bokondji is a musician hailing from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His band Okwess International released their first album Hotel Univers in May 2013, in the United Kingdom. They toured Africa in 1990 when the band was formed. Their popularity grew and a civil war broke out within the Democratic Republic of Congo. While some band members fled Europe to escape violence in Europe, Bokondji remained in Kinshasa. His popularity increased again after the war ended. In 2006, he was featured on the documentary Jupiter’s Dance. He was then discovered by U.K. musicians and producers, who invited him to join the African Express tour, a production of Hotel Univers. And, he performed at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival. Bokondji is known for his unique blend of Afropop and traditional Congolese rhythms as well as rock music. This distinctive sound is called “Bofenia Rock” by Bokondji. Many of his lyrics carry social or political messages. These include criticisms of DRC government and encouragement to Africans to realize their individual talents and potential. Born in Kinshasa, Bokondji is a Congolese diplomat. His grandfather was a Congolese diplomat and his grandmother was an traditional healer. As a child, he learned to play drums and percussion instruments with his grandmother at funerals and ceremonies. His father was later posted to East Berlin and his family moved to Germany. Bokondji’s band, Der Neger was formed in Germany. It combines the European rock style of his German friends with his Mongo music. The father’s assignment was ended and the family returned to Kinshasa in 1980. Bokondji travelled the country, listening to music from different tribes while forming his own style. In 1984, he formed the Bongofolk Orchestra and Okwess International in 90. Renaud Barret, a French filmmaker, and Florent de La Tullaye, a French filmmaker, met Bokondji and were inspired to make the documentary Jupiter’s Dance in 2006. The film featured music by Okwess and Staff Benda Bilili (another band Bokondji was involved in). Bokondji was then invited to join the African Express tour 2012. This tour brings together U.K. and African artists on a train that travels around Britain. It promotes cultural exchange and performances. Bokondji also participated in the DRC Music Project 2012 with Oxfam. This enabled him to collaborate with Damon Albarn of Blur, Gorillaz fame. The band performed at the UK’s Womad festival 2012 and Glastonbury festival 2013.

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