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KONGOS: Why The Accordion Rocks

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Jesse Kongos from KONGOS explains how the accordion found it's way into the band's sound and it eventually led to the band's hit single "Come With Me Now."

Made up of the four Kongos brothers, the appropriately named KONGOS is currently setting the U.S. on fire with their hit “Come With Me Now.” Out of South Africa, the people of their native country shouldn’t be surprised by their success here in America, they’ve been in that scene and others for years touring with the likes of Linkin Park and the Airborne Toxic Event. The band had released music in the U.S. before, but it had never latched on with audiences like we’re seeing it do right now. A big part of that is their hit single and the key instrument in it, the accordion. We talked with one of the four Kongos brothers, Jesse, about their hit and the instrument at the heart of it. “It was almost by accident that it found it’s way into our music,” said Jesse about the accordion. “In 2007 we put out our debut album. There’s a song on there called “The Way.” We were in the studio working on that and it was basically complete. But there was a solo section and we were trying to fill it, it just wasn’t right without something else. Nothing would work, we tried guitars, keyboards, everything that was laying around. Finally, there was an accordion. Nobody had ever played it before. Johnny picked it up, obviously being a piano player, he was able to translate on to the keyboard on there, and we heard that sound in that song and it was perfect. The harmony was kind of middle eastern, and it had this immediate sound that we knew it worked, no questions. From then on, we started to incorporate it pretty broadly into our songs. “The range of frequencies on that instrument is awesome. It produces such a rich sound that if you don’t capture it right it might sound like a slot machine. But captured right it’s got a rich harmonic sound that touches your soul,” added Jesse. Johnny, the Kongos brother who plays accordion for the band wrote the initial version of “Come With Me Now.” Jesse explained the background of the track and how the accordion along with a South African style of music influenced the song. “That was written by our accordion player Johnny and he wrote it years ago. We’ve been playing it live for years too. It took on different forms over the years. The record came from a demo he did in his room. When we heard it we knew it had hit potential. It’s influenced by a South African style of music called Kwaito. It’s house music that’s slowed down and has rapping on it in all different kinds of languages. When it’s final recording was finished, we always thought that it was strange with the accordion and a few other things, but the hook and the direct nature of the song was always obvious to us.” You can get the U.S. debut album, Lunatic