Kanda Bongo Man

Kanda Bongo Man, born in 1955 in Inongo in the Belgian Congo (formerly Zaire) of the Bandundu people, is one of the foremost figures in modern African popular music. He left school at the age of 18 to join a local Kinshasa band, playing the hot rhumba sound of the time. He quickly moved on to play with the Orchestre Bella Mambo (later Bella Bella) in 1976 and toured Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Zaire with their newly created Soukous (from the French 'secouer', 'to shake'), a music style that is a cross between Caribbean rumba rhythms and traditional African music.


In 1979 Kanda Bongo Man moved to Paris and was offered a recording contract in 1981. Together with guitarists Diblo Dibala and Rigo Starr he developed his own melodious and catchy Soukous. He is most famous for the structural changes he implemented to soukous music. The previous approach was to sing several verses and have one guitar solo at the end of the song. He revolutionized soukous by encouraging guitar solos after every verse and even sometimes at the beginning of the song. He sings in Lingala, and his high speed form of soukous gave birth to the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm where the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips. "Zairean soukous is a lilting, rippling, dance groove that seems to smile from every register, with melody and rhythm inseparable. Kanda Bongo Man himself sings melodies that curl through the patterns like vines on a trellis." - New York Times


His 1981 album Iloye topped charts all over Africa and he went to release a string of classics on the Hannibal label, including Amour Fou and Kwassa Kwassa. In 1983 Kanda played WOMAD in the UK and his international reputation was born. He still tours frequently in Europe and the United States and in July of 2005 he performed at the LIVE 8: Africa Calling concert in Cornwall, England.

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