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Kanda Bongo Man

The man who single-handedly gave the world the infectious Kwasa Kwasa dance; Kanda Bongo Man is one of the most well known stars of world music, and is one of the first pioneers of Soukous music.

His music has always been driven by optimism and happiness; it contains melodies that curl through the patterns like vines on a trellis.

It’s lilting, rippling, dance groove smiles from every register with inseparable melody and rhythm. He is without a doubt one of the most famous exponents of music from Congo and, has been at the heart of the Soukous scene since the 80’s.

Kanda Bongo Man, born 1955 in Inongo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a prominent soukous musician.

Kanda Bongo Man became the singer for Orchestra Belle Mambo in 1973, developing a sound influenced by Tabu Ley. His solo career only started to take off after moving to Paris in 1979, where his music started to incorporate elements of then-vibrant zouk music (originating in the French West Indies). His first solo albums, “Iyole” in 1981 and “Djessy” in 1982, were hits.

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. Kanda Bongo Man revolutionized soukous by encouraging guitar solos after every verse and even sometimes at the beginning of the song. His 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.

Like many African rumba and soukous musicians before him, Kanda Bongo Man also had an entourage of musicians. Many of Kanda’s musicians later moved on to start their own solo careers. Most notable of these was Diblo Dibala. Known as “Machine Gun”, Diblo Dibala was a vital part of Kanda Bongo Man’s lineup on several albums, including “Kwassa Kwassa” and “Amour Fou”.

Kanda Bongo Man still tours in Europe and the United States. On July, 2005 he performed at the LIVE 8: Africa Calling concert in Cornwall. On July 2006, he performed with Jimmy Cliff at the Adelaid Festival in Australia and in 2011, with Hugh Masekela at the Skignes Festival in the UK.

Kanda Bongo Man performed in Emperial Palace in Johannesburg on the 27th March 2015 also in Amarula Festival in Mpumalanga Province  and Nandoni Dam festival in Limpopo Province on December 2015 in South Africa.