About Kongo

The music of Kongo represents the spiritual way of life in Haiti, Vodou.  The power of the talking drums attracts the lwa spirits, who are concerned with human welfare and are called upon to solve problems of the masses, provide protection during hard times and to keep our people united.

Kongo is a cultural organization dedicated to presenting accessible performances and interactive workshops that develop a better understanding of Haitian Roots Music and a better appreciation of cultural music in general.  Through musical activity, the group teaches youth the importance of achieving goals through collective efforts, and encourages community and social consciousness. Meanwhile they work to dispel the myths about Haitian Vodou, and Haitian people in general caused by negative propaganda in the U.S.

The organization works with talented musicians and choreographers to provide instruction in traditional rhythms, songs and dance through interactive cultural music workshops in after school programs in NYC area public schools where music instruction is scarce and performances at cultural institutions, including museums and community-based organizations. KONGO has also provided drumming for various protests, community forums and social justice campaigns. Kongo has also worked in detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, immigration detention in the U.S. and in disaster relief camps in Haiti and the Dominican Republic doing solidarity relief work through cultural healing workshops.

KONGO was founded in 1995 by Öneza Lafontant, a Haitian native from Baconois (Bakonwa).  Bakonwa is a small town in the Southwest region of Haiti well known for keeping alive the Ginen  African tradition of Vodou.

KONGO–also the name of an African tribe that was brought to Haiti– offers a blend of a cappella interspersed with percussion and acoustic accents, that remains true to its African roots.  “You can use instruments in varying the ways you accentuate or create ‘your sound'”, says Öneza, who fronts the group as the samba lead singer.  He believes that Vodou is a spiritual way of life and in its musical form, the drums automatically take on a significant role.  “The drum was the first instrument; its sound is connatural with that of the human heartbeat.  It allows us to stay connected to our ancestors, who influence our daily lives by sending messages of wisdom, love, truth and justice, through the lwa spirits.  Haiti’s own independence relied on the drum as a communication device, which made our revolution possible… It is very powerful”.

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