Wednesday 16 November 2016

Nairobi Rumba Singles Splash

One comfort in an otherwise unsettling year has been my own luck in finding some great second-hand records – 78rpm, 45rpm and LPs. I had the good fortune of visiting Nairobi three times this year, and meeting a long-time Congo-Kenya Rhumba collector who no longer wanted to keep his vinyl collection, he wanted this music in digital format. So, come the summer holiday break I will be spending some time keeping my promise to him. Before I share with you my start on that project, I must mention two great compilations of Kenyan music that have this year been released world-wide. The sound reproduction on both compilations is really excellent. My personal favourite is “Urgent Jumping: East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics” which features 27 tracks spanning close on two and a half hours of music from Kenyan, Tanzanian and Congolese bands that plied their trade across the region over the period 1972 - 1982.

 “Kenya Special Volume 2” follows the successful release by Soundway Records of volume one in 2013. This compilation offers 20 tracks (90 minutes) sampling a wider variety of Kenyan music in the 1970s and 1980s.

 Soundway reckon that the resurgence of interest in African music from the 1960s to the 1980s is boosted by a curious new generation of music lovers: “The approach to musical rediscovery that is behind Kenya Special has its origins in a youthful movement of vinyl collecting (and to some extent club culture), which has, in the past decade and a half, carved out its own niche alongside the established music industry.”

“Despite the renewed interest in music from Kenya’s past, finding these tracks and their rights holders hasn’t become any easier. Only a handful of music archives around the world harbour collections of Kenyan music, and just a few private collectors in Kenya and abroad have been sharing catalogue info online or privately. One of the problems with East African music of this era is that much of it was originally released only on 45 rpm, seven-inch vinyl singles, many of which were only ever produced in tiny runs of a few hundred. 45s with their thin, paper sleeves do not age as well as LPs and are often far more susceptible to the elements. The compilers of Kenya Special 2 have gone to great lengths to disclose a small part of what is slowly being accepted as an essential element of East Africa’s cultural heritage: the history of recorded popular music.”

So, herewith a rather random sampling from the pile of 45rpms that Henry sold me. Do leave a comment if you would like more of the same.

1. Orch Bana Likasi: Lena Pts 1 & 2 (Kanema)
Outstanding vocalist Lovy Mokolo Longomba was the son of Vicky Longomba, a founding member of OK Jazz. The Muzikifan website (well worth a visit) tells us that Longomba moved to Nairobi in August 1978 and went through a string of bands, from Les Kinois, through Boma Liwanza, to Orch Shika Shika. He then formed the band Super Lovy in May 1981. Bana Likasi was the same band as Super Lovy, but was so named to avoid a contractual conflict. Longomba died in 1996 in a car crash in Tanzania.

2. Orch. Les Jaca: Sikia Pts 1 & 2 (Ligbutu)
This from the Muzikifan website: “Les Jaca was created by Lovy (Longomba) when he decided to leave Super Mazembe in 1981. He went into the studio with Siama, Tabu Frantal, Mandefu, Roy Mosanda and other friends, but the attempt bore no fruit, so Lovy remained with Super Mazembe.”

3. L'Orch Baba National: Vituko Vya Mama Mkwe Pts 1 & 2 (Baba Gaston)
One of the first Congolese musicians to settle in East Africa (in 1971), first in Dar Es Salam, and then in 1976 in Nairobi. Some reports indicate that Baba Gaston was not the easiest band leader to work with, and in July 1976 most his band walked out on him to form their own band, the highly successful Les Mangalepa. Baba Gaston remained a super star in Nairobi until his retirement in 1989.

4. Orch Les Wanyika: Nisaidie Baba Pts 1 & 2 (D.J. Ngereza) 1980.
An offshoot of Simba Wanyika formed by a group of Kenyan and Tanzanian musicians left the band to form Les Wanyika. Famous for classic Swahili rumba hit hits like Sina Makossa, Paulina and Pamela (these singles were even sold in South Africa at the time). Band leader and guitarist John Ngereza composed this song. In 2010, ten years after Ngereza died, four surviving members put aside their differences and re-grouped and started playing again. You can read about the reunion of Rashid Juma, Alfani Tommy Malanga, Sijali Zuwa ‘Usikajali’ and Joseph Justy ‘Yellow Man’ here.

5. Les Volcano: Hakuna Dawa Ya Mapenzi Pts 1 & 2 (Charles Ray Kasembe)

6. Orch Les Volcano: Tumonye Mwanangu Pts 1 & 2 (Charles Ray Kasembe)

Another off-shoot band though the details are not as clear. – this time from Super Volcano. Some sources say that Les Volcano were co-founded by Charles Ray Kasembe and Mohamed Mazingazinga in 1976. Info on the Kentanza site suggests that Les Volcano came about following the death of Mbaraka Mwinishe (leader of Super Volcano) in 1979. Doug Paterson sees it the same way: " 
I don't think Les Volcano was a group until after the death of Mbaraka Mwinshehe.  I think Mbaraka started Super Volcano after leaving Morogoro Jazz (in about 1974?).  After Mbaraka died, Ray Charles Kasembe tried to keep a subset of Super Volcano members together under the name Les Volcanos.  I don't think this group existed prior to Mbaraka's death (I could be mistaken).  I never had the opportunity to see Super Volcano, though I went to the Kenya coast try to find them in 1975 (just missed them)." Thanks Doug.
7. Orch. Super Bwambe: Atikapo Pts 1 & 2
Muzikifan tells us that John Negereza of Les Wanyika was a member of this Congolese band that also included: George Kalombo Mwanza, sax; John Ngereza, guitar; Chou chou, vocals; Kayembe Nyonga, vocals; Luboya wa Tshiteyai; Matabu Kunyanga. With Thomy Lomboto, bass, and Kabeya Ilombo from Viva Makale.

8. Orchestre Matonge: Pesa Moselebende Pts 1 & 2 (Jean-Claude K)

Named after the musical heart of Congo Kinshasa, this was another of the bands that sold really well in Nairobi. I cannot find much info on this band, though Tim Clifford on the ever useful Kentanza Vinyl site says that the Kamanyola label is named “after an area in eastern DRC Congo close to the Rwandan border. The name featured heavily in Mobutu’s Zaire as in 1964 it was where the young army officer led troops in the capture of a rebel-held bridge. When he rose to power, he named the presidential yacht, an army division and Kinshasa’s sports stadium (now the Stade des Martyrs) after this victory. There is still a Boulevard Kamanyola in Lubumbashi. Appropriately enough, one of the roads leading off it is the Avenue des Chutes - Falls or Collapses Avenue.”
Download link here


  1. FUCKING GREAT TUNES! Grooving with my wife on these lovely congo/kenya gems. More sure - anytime, but we have an infinity of music from you and a few other choice blogs. Thank you so much.

  2. Oh yes! Please post more of the same. I'm eternally grateful :)

  3. Thanks Chris, I am very excited to hear about this. I am going to download this immediately and woza Friday can start a bit earlier this week. Didn't manage to comment the last months(spamfilter?) , but be sure I have been following you guys from close. Please continue preserving the heritage. Rik

  4. You guys are great. Many thanks.

  5. Thank you! I will be putting these on my brand new portable music player. :)

  6. I bought the two cd's you mentioned and for sure great stuff and a good quality sound.Please Chris do a favour to mankind and share this collection with the whole world thanks Rik

  7. Rik - the download link at the bottom of the post is still working - just tested it again.

  8. Thanks mate Must have been my Internet connection that failed Rik

  9. This is great, an excellent job, I will be my favorite music in one place, here I am at home.

    Thk U!!



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