Hotel Univers

OH 024CD OH 024CD

Jupiter & Okwess International's international debut album Hotel Univers takes you right into the heart and onto the streets of modern day Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a politically and economically troubled country. Band leader Jupiter Bokondji is the charismatic and outstanding representative of the innovative scene of street musicians in Kinshasa, a scene which became internationally well-known through the success of Staff Benda Bilili, a band who they share close ties with. His idea is to reactivate the forgotten rhythms and melodies of the Congo, by injecting the urban groove of the city. When Jupiter wants time off from the daily hustle on the streets of Kinshasa, he rents a room at Hotel Univers. There he can hide from the noise of the streets and seek new inspiration. Many of the ideas in his songs were formed between his room and the bar where he drinks whiskey and meets the characters that roam the streets of Kinshasa at night. The song "Magerita" is dedicated to the dangerously attractive women in Kinshasa's nightlife. It became an immediate hit in Lemba, the area on the outskirts of Kinshasa where Jupiter is from. "Bapasi" has become a common expression for the daily life struggles of the community in Lemba. It is a catchphrase people use to search for new motivation in order to tackle their daily difficulties -- for instance when the public cleaning service doesn't work, the people in Lemba decided to take care of cleaning up the streets themselves. "The material is but an elution," he sings in the song "Bakwapanu," "but only the spiritual remains eternal." Through his music Jupiter tries to encourage people to take the future into their own hands. In 1974, as a young boy, he left the Congo to go to East Germany with his father who was appointed executive assistant for the Congo's embassy in Germany. There he spent his adolescence and discovered Europe and its vibrant music scene, including artists such as The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple and James Brown. He set up his own rock band called Der Neger with fellow young Berliners. Their sound was a strange cocktail of mongo percussions and Zeppelin-esque guitar. At the age of 20 his father's mandate ended, and Jupiter went back to the bubbling '80s Kinshasa. He left the family home, earning a living singing at funerals and playing percussion in several local orchestras. He started developing his own unique style, surrounding himself with musicians from Europe. He named this explosive mix "Bofenia Rock" and in 1983 formed his first orchestra, Bongofolk. Then in 1990 he founded his own band: Okwess International. The band developed a vision of a new Congolese sound experimenting with the musical heritage of a nation with more than 450 different ethnicities. In early 2004, Jupiter met two French travellers, Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye. The connection was immediate, so much so that Barret and de la Tullaye returned to record the songs of Okwess International and other groups surrounding Jupiter, such as Staff Benda Bilili. Jupiter's Dance, a film documenting this musical exploration, was released in 2007. The film became his international introduction and Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame worked with him on several projects including the electronic album DRC Music - Kinshasa One Two (Warp). Albarn also invited him to perform at the 2012 Africa Express tour in the UK. Jupiter and his band also toured the world with Amadou & Mariam.