Jupiter Bokondji (born 1965) is a musician from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. He and his band, Okwess International, released their first album, Hotel Univers, in May 2013 in the United Kingdom. The band was created in 1990, and they toured the African continent. However, at the same time that their popularity grew, a civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some band members fled to Europe to escape violence, but Jupiter stayed in Kinshasa. As the war died down, his popularity grew again, and in 2006 he was featured in the documentary Jupiter's Dance. This brought him to the attention of U.K. producers and musicians, which led to him joining the African Express tour, the production of Hotel Univers, and performing at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival.
Jupiter Bokondji and Okwess International at Way Out West 2013 in Gothenburg, Sweden
Jupiter's sound is a unique combination of Afropop, traditional Congolese rhythms, funk, and rock music. He calls this distinct sound "Bofenia Rock." His lyrics often carry political or social messages, including criticisms of the DRC government as well as positive encouragement for Africans to better realise their individual talent and potential.
Jupiter was born in Kinshasha. His father was a Congolese diplomat, and his grandmother was a traditional healer. His grandmother got him started in music as he attended ceremonies and funerals with her to play percussion instruments like drums. Later, his father was posted to the embassy in East Berlin, and the family moved to Germany.
It was in Germany that Jupiter started his band, Der Neger, which combined his native Mongo music style with the European rock style of his German bandmates. His father's posting eventually ended, and they moved back to Kinshasa in the 1980s. Jupiter traveled around the country listening to music from all the different tribes and solidifying his own style. He formed an orchestra called Bongofolk in 1984 and Okwess International in 1990.
French filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye met Jupiter in 2004, and he inspired them to create the documentary Jupiter's Dance, which was released in 2006. The film featured music from Okwess as well as Staff Benda Bilili, another band in which Jupiter is involved. This led to more connections in the international music industry, and Jupiter was invited to join the African Express tour in 2012. The tour puts African and U.K. artists together on a train that tours around Britain giving performances and promoting cultural exchange. Also in 2012, Jupiter was involved with the DRC Music Project with Oxfam. This allowed him to work with Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame. The band performed at the UK's Womad festival in 2012 at the Glastonbury festival in 2013.
Africa Beats: DR Congo's Jupiter, BBC, 25 April 2013.
Paul MacInnes, Harriet Gibsone, Paul Lester and Caspar Llewellyn Smith, Future Glastonbury festival headliners: which bands are making the most noise The Guardian, 24 June 2013.
Thomas Mecha JUPITER & OKWESS INTERNATIONAL, 11 July 2013, Jusi I Love.
Okwess Band Biography Archived December 20, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
Andy Morgan, Jupiter Bokondji: 'The cultural riches of Congo are immense', The Guardian, 26 August 2012.
Alec Moses, Jupiter Bokondji and Okwess International wow Womad Festival fans, 29 July 2012, Demotix
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