Music and Musicians in Eastern and Central Africa
July 15th., 1998
Copyright: Vital Logistics Teknokacia, Nairobi, Kenya
N.B. For more on East African music, check out Douglas Paterson's
great site here!!
Some people, especially in the West (Europe and North America), and perhaps
some of the musicians themselves, would like to imagine that Afican music
has made significant advances since the emigration in the late 1970's to
Paris, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and various other U.S cities. There
is no doubt the musicians are financially better off, earning many times
what they would in their home countries. They are also heard more
on radio stations worldwide and live performances to mainly non-African
audiences have increased.
Certainly, people like Yousouf Ndour and Papa
Wemba have become well known since they started the so called `fusion'
of African with Western beats, whatever that means. However, it is
also obvious that these `fused' numbers are only `hits' in the Western
world and perhaps among the few elitist (read `self- brain washed') youths
in some African cities. Ndour and Nene Cherry's 'Seven Seconds Away' never
sold as much in Africa as it did in the West. Papa Wemba's and Olomide's
'Imagination' is also not a best seller in Africa. As a matter of
fact, a rapidly growing number of Africans in East & Central Africa
are becoming disechanted. Many bands in this part of the world often
find themselves being forced by audience demand to play oldies performed
by long-defunct bands of the 1950-1980's. This is a sign that the
apparent financial and publicity success of the European and American-based
African performers is not reflected as followings.
In Africa, many Africans view this as retardation in artistic creativity.
It is no longer possible to distinguish between most of the songs from
the Western capital-based musicians since only the composers vary.
The performers are largely the same. So Kanda Bongo Man, Aurlus Mabele
and many other `so-called' stars hire the same people - Diblo Dibala, Lokassa
ya Mbongo, Dally Kimoko, Nene Tchacou, Miguel Yamba etc. These performers
therefore all sound and look similar.
Another criticism apart from this lack of individual identity (probably
plagiarism, exemplified in the animations - Madiaba, Ndombolo etc)
is the lack of variety within the numbers themselves which are often
monotonous and short. There is too much emphasis on the solo guitar
and chanting (animations). These contrasts with the 1970's when all instruments
and vocals were given prominence and/or acknowledged. Some journalists
in Britain have dubbed Diblo Dibala the `fastest' guitarist in the West
but they are, no doubt, unaware that even in Europe, there are better African
solo guitarists like Dally Kimoko and Kinzunga Ricos. In the days
of Zaire of the 1960's to 1970's, annual competitions for outstanding musical
performers never turned up Diblo Dibala. Instead, largely forgotten
names like the Zaiko Langa Langa lead guitarist in the hit `Zaiko Wawawa'
and Fataki Lokasssa, among others, were outstanding. Like everywhere
else in the present world, Western journalists with very little experience
in African issues suddenly become `experts' and distort facts which are
then carried far by their extensive media connections and outlets.
Closely tied with the increasing lack of artistic imagination of
East and Central African musicians in the West, is the offensive and degrading
dancing style promoted largely by the Zairoise (a better sounding and more
distinctive name than 'Congolese'). Almost-naked women and sexually-explicit
dance styles are probably extensions of the strip-tease acts in Western
night clubs. The late Luambo Luanzo Makiadi, who first used women dancers
in his band long before moving to Brussels, certainly did not foresee their
misuse by the present genre. Even Tabuley's dancers kept their clothes
Viva La musica, Quarter Latin and Wenge Musica could also be grouped in
the `lost' category' of African musicians under discussion since they are
fairly young bands and tend to suffer from the monotony of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam-London
Papa Wemba is not even an outstanding vocalist to be compared with Pepe
Kalle, Nyboma, Dindo Yogo, Mopero or Jojo Ikomo,yet the Western world keeps
glorifying him as the best from Africa.
It must be emphasized that, although most African music is largely for
dancing with vigour, it is certainly not sexually-oriented as exhibited
by the Zairean woman dancers of the present day.
Those who would like to compare the past and present to understand where
Africa has lost musical talent, are advised to try and listen to recordings
of the following artists at their peak. Sadly, most of them are too
poor, have passed away or have been forgotten.
1. Orch Lipua Lipua - Prof Vata Mombassa, Nyboma Muan'dido (presently in
Paris with 4-stars), Kizunga Ricos, Athos Mongoley, Mbubie Malanda - one
of the best composers and vocalists), Benazoe Mbuta, Tshimanga Assosa (in
Tanzania with Marquis du Zaire), Mule Mulembu Tshibao, Nsayi Nono Nkuka,
Tedia Wunu Mbakidi, Toninoe, Lusuama Aspro, Nzaya Nzayadio, Mwalupu, Deni
Wade, Ken Kiesse, Pepe Kalle (broke off to form Empire Bakuba), Mbanza
Velela, Makaya etc
2. Orch Les Kamale - Formed by Nyboma from Lipua Lipua. Included
Mulembu Tshibao, Tshimanga Assosa, Kinzunga Ricos, Mbuta Benazo and, later
after the break away of Orch. Fuka Fuka, Bompongo Assana.
3. Bella Bella - the late Socki Vangu and his late brother
Soki Dianzenza; also included Shaba Kahamba. Off shoots saw the emergence
of Kanda Mbongo Man.
4. Orch Shama Shama de Mopero - Featured Mopero, Mambo Ley, Jeampy and
Dona Mobeti. The Keyan-based vocalist Prince Koko Zigo Mike is reported
to have once been part of Shama Shama in Uganda towards the end of Idi
Amin's reign and before he was invited to Kenya by Bwami Walumona and Kalombo
Mwanza when they formed Orch Viva Makale Almasi.
5. Empire Bakuba - featuring Pepe Kelle Kabaselleh Yampanya, Pay Tex, Kinanga
Nzaou Boeing, Dilu Dilumona, Doris Ebouya and the late 'Dancing' EMORO.
This band, like Zaiko Langa Langa, is very popular because it is still
largely based in Zaire rather than in any Western capital. Pepe Kalle
himself is on record saying that he gets his inspiration from his live
audiences in Africa. The band now boasts of another very good (but unknown
in the West) vocalist/composer, Jojo Ikomo from the Kenyan section of the
6. African All Stars that featured Sam Mangwana who once also sung
with Franco's TP OK Jazz.
7. Tabuley Rochereau and Afrisa International - Especially the hits of
the late 1960s, 1970s and mid 1980s. Once Tabuley and the famous
Nicholas Kasanda (Dr Nico) performed together as African Fiesta.
The late Dr Nico is rated in the same category as Tabuley and Franco. Tabuley's
popolarity has waned somwhat since the departure of Mbilia Bel and his
attempts at 'Madiabafication' of his music.
8. Luambo Luanzo Makiadi Franco & TP OK Jazz. All his entire
repartoire from the late 1950's to his death in the late 1980's.
Probably the most prolific composer and the best known Zairean musician.
Photo 1: The gigantic African musicians - Kenyan Prof. Naaman
9. Zaiko Langa Langa - and most offshoots except those that emigrated to
Paris which have become bogged down in the African Morass in Europe. Nyoka
Longo, Zangilu, J.P Buse, Bimi Ombale, Zamuangana, Bozi Boziana, Belobi
Nge Ekerne, Bakunde Ilo Pablo, the late Lengi Lenga, Dindo Yogo (now caught
up in the Paris vicious circle), Yvon Kabamba, Dju Dju Mandjeku, Muaka
Bapius Mbeka etc. This band, especially under Nyoka Longo, has been
popular in Zaire and most of East and Central Africa since the late 1970's.
It is currently the most popular, although some people think that Alain
Makaba's Wenge Musica and Koffi Olomide's Quarter Latin as well as Papa
Wemba's Viva La Musica are strong challengers. However, none of these
other bands can claim the longterm consistency of Nyoka Longo. In
the West he is less well known than either Olomide or Wemba.
(Left) with Zaireans Dancing Emoro (Centre) and Pepe Kalle (Right)
photoed in Nairobi during a concert tour to Kenya by Empire Bakuba.
Photo 2: Orch. Zaiko Langa Langa during a recent tour of Kenya
(29-31st May 1998)
10. Grand Piza - featured Mbo Mayu, Makengo Roy and Aime. Disappeared without
trace in the mid 1970's.
Baba Gastone Ilunga wa Ilunga formed Baba Nationale in the late 1950's
(Barua Kwa Mpenzi Gastone), then moved to Kenya where offshoots like the
famous Mangelepa, Bwambe Bwambe and Pepelepe were formed by disenchanted
members. Famous names included Evani Kabila Kabanze (very good vocalist/composer),
Kalenga Nzaazi Vivi (vocalist/composer), Tshimanga, BadiBanga wa Tshilumba
Kaikai 9vocalist/composer), Lutulu Kaniki Macky (vocalist/composer), the
late Shoushou (Tchou Tchou), Jimmy Kanyinda, Aloni Vangu, Estazo wa Esta
(later joined Festival du Zaire), the late Nana Akumu wa Kudu (led Pepe
Lepe in Nairobi before joining Franco in the hit song `Mamou'),Mukala wa
Mulumba Bebe, Zainabu, Pepe Mato, Yassa Bijouley (now in Mombasa, Kenya),
Lisasi Ebale Mozindo, the late Tabu Nkotela Kiombwe (died in Mombasa, Kenya,
while in police custody on a theft case), Kasongo wa Kanema, (frequent
in Japan), Zengele Saida, John Ngereza (now leading the famous Les Wanyika
in Nairobi), Bosho Kayembe Nyonga (now leading Festival Libaku in Nairobi),
William Tambwe Lokassa, Kasongo Fundi, Le Capitaine Bwami Walumona, Kazadi
Mbiya Saleh wa Bambu, Medico Bwala, Mukala Kanyinda Coco, Lukangika Maindusa
Moustang, Lumwamga Mayombo Ambassedeur, etc. Compositions of Orch Mangelepa
(unheard of since 1986) are still much sought after in East Africa.
If some of these names have new numbers, the author knows several interested
11. Baba Nationale and its offshoots - Mangelepa, Bwambe Bwambe, Bana Ekanga,
Photo 3 Orch Malembe Stars of Kabakaba Bibiley Mwana Malela - formerly
of Les Kinois and Virunga.
12. Festival Du Zaire - featured Nguashi Ntimbo (very good composer and
vocalist who also sung with Franco's TP OK Jazz), Estazo wa Esta, Kadima,
Zele Kabamba etc. Ntimbo was also associated with Orch. Sentima and Orch.
Photo 4: The Nyotas Band of Rondo Kandolo before it broke up.
Julian did a live performance with this group in June 1997 at their old
tuff, Egessa Inn, Umoja 1 (& Inner Core) Estate, in Nairobi's sprawling
The author is interested in getting in touch with the remnants of this
band wherever they are. Fataki was so famous and loved in Kenya that
some prominent sports personalities were nick-named after him. The
same applied to Jojo and Manicho.
13. Bana Ngenge - Based in Nairobi in the mid 1970's and featured Fataki
Los Los Lokassa Masumbuko ya Dunia, Jojo Ikomo (now with Empire Bakuba),
Nsilu Bansilu Manicho (on the Japanese Circuit), the late Lawison Somana
(produced Lady Issa at one time), Ochudi, Mandala Otis Musa, Zengele Saida,
Beya Maduma, Roxy Tshimpaka (now with Zaiko Langa Langa, formally with
14. Bangambo Zigidia - of Koko Jeriko Zigo Mike who later joined Shama
Shama de Mopero before moving to Kenya as part of Viva Makale, Kombe Kombe,
Virunga (of Samba Mapangala) and currently leading his own Losako Musica
in Nairobi. A very very good vocalist and composer but neglected
by producers hence not financially sucessful as his Paris-based mates.
In recognition of this fact, Prince Koko is requested to get in touch for
a possible recording deal.
15. Orch. Bassanga - led by the very good saxophonist and vocalist, George
Kalombo Mwanza. Also had Jojo Ikomo (now with Empire Bakuba), Batchalinge
Tabu Ogollah (of Special Liwanza, Boma Liwanza, Shika Shika, Les Jaca and
now on the Japanese circuit), William Tambwe Lokassa and the Ethiopian
Who knows what happened to Kalombo? Where is Tambwe since he
left Orch. Virunga?
16. Orch Les Kinois - featured Samba Mapangala (now with Virunga), the
late Pele Ekwaki Ondindia, Madjo Maduley Iliko Presto DjO (now in USA)
Walengo Diabanza Niki Djo, Kaba Kaba Bibiley (now very successful in Nairobi
with Malembe Stars or Bana Motindo), Joseph Okello Songa (later joined
Super Mazembe), Kasule Mopepe, the late Bedjo Dibuba Mikobi Maumo), Musa
Otis Mandala, Fataki Lokassa, Zengele Saida etc. Samba Mapangala has reportedly
moved to the USA and should probably seek his old mate Madjo to re-do some
of their old numbers with Les Kinois like `Kilindo', `Bawa', Mbepe', `Mabouidi',
`Anyango', Susan, etc. To some, the Samba-Madjo-Pele combination
produced more melodious and memorable songs than the more famous VIRUNGA
which unfortunately lost its identity when it used the Paris morass in
the studio instead of its own musicians like Koko Zigo, Fataki Lokassa,
Ntambwe etc. One wonders why Samba preferred this arrangement.
17. Viva Makale - of Kalombo Mwanza George, Bwami Nalumona (Formerly of
Baba Nationale and Mangelepa, now a `born-again' christian in Nairobi),
Jimi Monimambo (of Shika Shika fame, now in Tanzania), Kasongo Kanema (ex-Baba
Nationale, ex Bwambe Bwambe, then joined Orch Vundumuna and Ibeba Systems),
Elliot Aduonga (ex-Somajeko), Sammy Mansita (later joined VIRUNGA and also
Ibeba systems), Mwalimu Siama Matuzu-Ngidi Ntima (also of Kombe Kombe and
Virunga), Le Muttu Vumbi Lava (Love) Machine (also of Kombe Kombe &
Virunga), Mukala Coco, the late Tommy Lomboto Ahmed Brown, Tcherry Stone,
Kabeya Elombe etc. It would be a releif to know where these great musicians
18. Johny Bokelo Isenge of Conga De J. Bokelo, Conga Success, Conga International
and lastly with Bonda Africa
19. Orch KIAM (Kiamwangana): A very popular group in the 1970's.
Had Mfui Mwane and Lele Nsundi as key members. Could outsell even
Zaiko Langa Langa today. Who knows how and why they broke up and stayed
down?. Was it because Kiamwamgana's support was so vital that when Mobutu
expelled him from Zaire, the band could not survive? The author would like
to get and keep in touch with survivors.
20. Les Noirs - of Mukaputu Kalemby Kajos, the late Moreno Batamba, Jojo
Ikomo, William Tambwe Lokassa, Mankwazi Duki Dieudos and Chuza Kabaselleh.
What happened to Kajos, Duki and Chuza?
21. Somajeko International - Nairobi-based band with distinctive
beat but whose existence was shortlived. Was composed of big names
like Sammy Kasule, Festus Adwonga, John Njaghe (what happened to him) and
22. 9 stars Orchestra and Prof. Naaman. The Kenyan equivalent of
Pepe Kalle, the late 'Prof.' Naaman had a very successful musical career
with his 9 Stars Orchestra. This was in addition to his herbal medicine
practice. The group's compositions were much sought after but the
band did not survive the death of its founder and sponsor.
23. Orch MAS System - another very successful all kenyan show that was
based at Muungano Bar in Eastleigh, Nairobi. With the deaths
of some leading members and the departure of others, the band is now a
pale shadow of its former self and is now reportedly based in Kisumu, western
Photo 4: Orch Les Wanyika - the most successful band in Kenya at
24. Super Mazembe (Bana Likasi) - Didos Longwa, the late Bukalos Bukassa,
Kasongo Songoley, Atia Joe, Katele Aley, the late Lovy Longomba, Kasongo
wa Kanema, Lobe Roddy Mapako, Samba Mapangala, Madjo Maduley, Kalombo Mwanza,
Fataki Lokassa. Popularity waned when these stars left. Katele
Aley penned most of the Mazembe hits although few people know this and
he was less famous than the other members of the group. Nothing has
been heard of him in a long time but Longwa has been seen in various kenyan
towns in the recent past with a Super Mazembe band which has not had a
successful hit in the last 10 years. It is not even known if any
recordings have been made. Muntokole Longwa should let us know the
situation since they participated in the recent opening of the 'City Cabanas'
restaurant near the International Airport in Nairobi.
Unlike their Ugandan and Kenyan counterparts, Tanzanian musicians have
not been too carried away by the Zairean influence and have largely maintained
their unique identity and their recordings are well respected and much
sought after. Thus, Afrosa (Afro 70) of Stephen and Patrick Balisija,
Western Jazz (Segere Matata), Morogoro Jazz (Super Volcano) of the late
Mbaraka Mwinshehe Mwaruka, Jamhuri Jazz (though was led by a Kenyan), Arusha
Jazz (Simba Wanyika) of the Peter Kinyonga brothers (Wilson, George and
William), NUTA Jazz (Wana Msondo Ngoma) Mlimani Park Orchestra (Wana Sikinde
Ngoma ya Ukae), and Cuban Marimba (of the late Juma Kilaza), produced hits
that every serious collector of African music should have. The strong
Tanzanian identity is felt even in Zairean groups resident in Tanzania,
like Marquis du Zaire, Makassy and Super Matimila (of Remmy Ongala Sura
Mbaya). Even largely Tanzanian shows in Kenya such as Les Wanyika
(off shoot of Simba wa Nyika) have retained much of the Tanzanian style
of strong lyrics.
Other groups worth listening to include Orch. Shika Shika, Orch. Soso Liso
(Mario Matadidi Mabele Bwana Kitoko), Orch. Super Tukina (Selly Ekelu and
Samba Mapangala), Orch. Somejeko (John Njaghe, Festus Okonda, Sammy Kasule,
Elia John - from Simba Wanyika, Festus Okonda, Elliot Aduon'ga), Orch.
Tabou National, (Fataki Lokassa & Bokake), Orch. Tout Mopia (Chumu
Lay Lay), Orch. Top Forum, Orch. Baya Baya, Orch. Boma Liwanza of Mzee
Shango Lola, Kikuni Mbongo Pasi (Veckyz) and Jimmy Monimambo (now in Tanzania
but founder of the famous SHIKA SHIKA of Nairobi in the 1980's, Orch Cavacha,
Orch. Enafi Likembe, Orch Etumba na Gwaka (which first brought Dindo Yogo
to attention), Orch Et Son Ensemble (featured Bakunde Ilo Pablo- later
of Zaiko langa Langa), Orch, Les Ezazo, Orch. Ibeba System (of Kasongo,
Kanema, Sammy Mansita, Elliot Aduonga, Siama Ntima, Diabanza Niki Djo,
Tony Kalanzi, Lava Machine and Kasongo Fundi), Orch. Kombe Kombe (Koko
Zigo, Tcherry Stone, Tommy Lomboto, Siama Ntima and Lava Machine), Orch.
Les Pazo, Orch. Lisanga (Beya Maduma, Passy Djo, and Bisthou Manou), Orch.
Mamaki, Orch. Mirage, Orch. Mos Mos, Orch. Moja One (Moreno and Koko Zigo),
Orch. Mpete wa Mpete (Higha Fives).
Each of these named bands and musicians had a distinctive touch and could
easily be recognized even without reading the record label. Many
of their songs are still sought after, unlike those Kanda Bongoman, Arlus
Mabele, Koffi Olomide, Geo Bilongo and other African-Parisians which sound
good only as long as they are on radio but which individual buyers do not
listen to very often except in bars.
Something else of significance is that even though recording facilities
are reputed to be much better these days, the real surround/stereo/live
effect is only found in early recordings such as those done by Kimwangana
Mateta's mobile recording studios that sponsored and brought to fame most
of the cited Zairean bands. Certainly, Kimwangana (who also led his
own band, Orch. Veve), was a very well known and good sounding vocalist/composer.
However, he found it necessary to record and sponsor most other unknown
groups who later rose to prominence. Since his departure from the
recording scene, African producers now tend to be business men, rather
than musicians, killing off most promising talent. Kianmwanjana is reputed
to have been the sponsor of groups like Orch. Lipua Lipua, Orch. Kiam,
Orch. Shama Shama, Orch. Les Kamale, Orch. Bella Bella, Empire Bakuba and
many others including Zaiko Langa Langa.
The author of this article, Muttu Mondiya Mama is a lover and collector
of African Music. He welcomes comments and additions/corrections
on East and Central Africa music and musicians with a view to writing an
authoritative and accurate account. He can be contacted at the following
1. P O Box 868
2. P O Box 6300
3. C/o This web page
Electronic audio samples of productions of cited groups can be sent
on request via this web page. Arrangements can also be made to supply
tapes at Cost subject to Copyright Laws.
A list of the best selling hits of the Era reviewed in this article
The following numbers
were big hits are still much sought after by collectors. Contact this web
page if you have any for sale or exchange.
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