'Black Dragon' is the debut single from Congolese group Dragon Noir, and features the voice of British vocalistTamara Schlesinger. The collaboration blows every hip Afrobeat clich' out of the water: no kalimbas, no colonial nods to President Mobutu nor Staff Benda Bilili.
It features a mixture of Dragon Noir's traditional roots and the cold technology of Benjamin Schoos' synth keyboard collection. Imagine Fela Kuti or Manu Dibango jamming with Kraftwerk and you wont be far off.
Its origins date back to 2010 when Belgian producer Schoos, head of Freaksville Records and the man who dueted with Stereolab vocalist L'titia Sadier on the hit single 'Je Ne Vois Que Vous' (2012), welcomed the Congolese group into his studio. What was initially simply a wonderful play on words - "Afreaksville" (a contraction of the name of the continent and that of the label) - was to rapidly transform into a Searching For Sugarman-esque tale with the boys themselves in the role of missing man Rodriguez.
Three years ago, Schoos met three teenage Congolese street musicians who, like the Jackson Five, had an idiosyncratic way of hitting their instruments as they did in the days when Afro Funk dominated the charts. The Freaksville boss would probably have been wise to tread carefully: for a long time relations between the Congo and Belgium have been as tense as they ever were at Checkpoint Charlie. However, captivated by their groove and talent, he didn't hesitate to invite them for a week of recording in his Liege studio.
Delighted with the quality of the recording sessions, Schoos thought it was all in the bag. Yet when it was time to record the vocals, they had gone AWOL a la Rodriguez.
Fast forward to 2012 and Schoos is in London to promote his album China Man Vs China Girl. Schoos played the demos to a host of musician friends, including production / dj duo Jay Glover and Adil Magik (aka A Cowboy & Indian (Martin Gore, Grandmaster Flash, Chrissie Hynde, Propaganda's Claudia Brucken, and. err. 60's crooner Tony Christie)).
Tantalised by what sounded like African Krautrock, the duo offered their help in finishing the record and recruited guest vocals. Rising nu-folk star Tamara Schlesinger appears the first single that you have in your hands, 'Black Dragon'.
Two and a half years after the initial sessions, Schoos has still not heard a thing from these incredible street musicians. However, now armed with a finished record, christened Kinshasa Mantra, he hopes to give these mysterious Congolese characters the fame they deserve.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.