How KONGOS Got Their Unique Sound

emilytreadgold #6, Features

We’d be willing to bet that KONGOS have been stuck in your head at some point recently. Their breakthrough hit “Come With Me Now” has been on the radio, ESPN promos, and commercials. The song is known for its gritty vocals, crazy beat, and accordion hooks. It’s impossibly catchy.

The South African group is made up of four brothers: Dylan, Daniel, Jesse, and Johnny Kongos. Now based in Phoenix, the band achieved success in their native country before releasing their second album, Lunatic in 2013.
Their first headlining tour kicked off in Dallas recently and we managed to catch their show and sat down with Daniel Kongos.

“We’re really excited about our first headlining tour, we’ve been on the road with a lot of great bands, but on this tour we have a lot of exciting things happening,” he says.

Their father, John Kongos, had international hits like “Tokoloshe Man” and “He’s Gonna Step On You” in the 1970s. He also had a home studio and a variety of instruments. Daniel says that he is a major musical influence for KONGOS.

“He helped teach us, exposed us to all sorts of music, he fused African music with rock,” says Daniel.
Growing up, they always had the idea of starting a band in the back of their mind. But the positive feedback and recognition they received helped them stay motivated. No matter what, Daniel says they were going to do what it took to be successful.

“Before the breakthrough we all tried different stuff but we were going to make it work as long as we could,” says Daniel.
Their music is influenced by kwaito, a South African music that Dylan describes as “a slowed-down version of house music [that has] an African flavor to it with accordion along with electronic beats.”

Daniel wasn’t surprised by their success but it took a lot of work. “It happened in standard stages: local following, recorded songs off Lunatics, emailed to radios, they started to play one of the songs on the radio, we flew to South Africa, then a radio station in Denver started playing us on their radio and it took off from there.”

Their live performance was as unique as one would expect. They kept the crowd moving the entire time. The numerous accordion solos and tribal drumbeats pull the show together flawlessly. There’s an energy in their live show that is lost on the radio.

When the intro to “Come With Me Now” played, the crowd really started going crazy. It was a whole new experience to feel everyone in the venue stomping and shouting. They slowed things down with a new track not on Lunatic. It was a step in a different direction with a more mature vibe while still keeping with their unique, South African sound.

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