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Radio Feedback: Kongos Didn’t Understand the Power of Radio

"Looking back on it now is one of those big watershed moments."
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Courtesy Epic Records

Courtesy Epic Records

By Jay Tilles

Radio Feedback is where we ask artists to wax nostalgic about the first time they heard themselves on the radio.

Having written “Come With Me Now” nearly six years ago, Kongos had no expectations that song would ever get picked up by American radio much less become a hit. Sure, they found some success in their homeland of South Africa, but over time they learned radio in the U.S. was “a tough nut to crack.”

Keyboardist and accordion player Johnny Kongos, one of four siblings in the band, recalled the time he first heard the track on the air.

“I do remember the first time we heard “Come With Me Now” on American radio,” explained Kongos. “We were driving to Riot Fest in Denver and KTCL spun the record for the first time and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this could be something,’ because at this point nothing was happening. We were touring, playing some tiny shows around the country. I had no clue what it actually meant.”

Kongos had a hard time fathoming what the radio play might actually lead to. “It was really like one of those old school moments you see in the movies. It was really exciting. I just don’t think we quite understood at the time how important radio was in the U.S. in terms of new music exposure and discovery.”

Related: Q&A: Kongos Turn South African Success into a U.S. Radio Hit

“Looking back on it now is one of those big watershed moments,” he continued. “At the time it was just an exciting moment.”

He added: “When things started to go a little further and we started to understand the scope of things we were driving into L.A. to play that show early this year opening up for Imagine Dragons and literally just randomly flipping through stations and hit KROQ and it was playing. That was one of those crazy moments. To drive through L.A. and have KROQ play your song is the stuff that musicians dream about.”

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