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Jupiter & Okwess blend African rhythms with soul, R&B influences

Jupiter Bokondji is enjoying his time off in France.

The musician has one week off since returning from tour in South America.

And then he’s headed to Albuquerque to perform as part of ¡Globalquerque! at 9 tonight at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

To top that off, he’s also got a new album – “Kin Sonic” – to pull new songs from.

“We wanted to capture in the studio what we do on stage,” Bokonkji says. “We were already playing a number of songs from the album during the two years we were working on the album.”

Bokondji comes from Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He and his band, Okwess, play music that feels both African and American, with his musical tastes inspired by The Jackson 5, James Brown and Kool and the Gang, as well as the sounds of Motown.

He says it’s the music he heard while traveling back and forth with his family between and East Berlin.

His father was an attaché at the Congolese Embassy there.

Bokondji also was influenced by the Congolese rumba, which is the popular dance music from as early as the 1940s.

It is not too dissimilar from some Cuban music of the day.

“Of course, the message of my music is also about the politics of the region,” he says.

Bokondji says the process for making music changes with each song, though it remains similar.

“We find the source of the music and bring in the traditional rhythm,” he says. “We work together at mixing the ingredients. We let it simmer and see what comes from the process. Usually, it’s something rich in all aspects, from the lyrics to the music.”

Bokondji and the band will make their debut in Albuquerque.

Over the past couple of years, the band has been getting more exposure in the United States.

“The goal now is to get more exposure and we are working on new songs,” he says. “Everybody is trying to rest so we can travel and get the tour going. It’s always fun to experience a new place and its culture.”

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