Saturday, September 5, 2009

From Congo to Kenya Pt. 2

As a follow-up to my earlier post From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1, here are some melodies courtesy of the Congolese diaspora in East Africa. Like that post, this one is focused on the early 1980s. In 1985, President Daniel Arap Moi ordered the expulsion of foreign workers, including musicians, from Kenya, and the Congolese/Zairean musical community there scattered to the four winds.

For some time I had wondered who possessed the soulful voice that featured on so many 45s issued during the '80s in Kenya by such disparate groups as the Kenya Blue Stars and Bana Ngenge. Was it the same person? Along comes Alastair Johnston to clear up the puzzle in his article Congolese/Zaïrean Musicians in East Africa. Turns out the mystery voice is Moreno Batamba (nee Batamba Wenda Morris), who was born in Kisangani in 1955 and joined Orchestre Maquis Sasa in 1971. In 1974 he hooked up with Fataki Lokassa and a number of other Congolese exiles in Uganda to form Bana Ngnege, which seems to have undergone a number of permutations and name changes over the years. Although Alastair writes that Bana Ngenge broke up in 1976, a group called Bana Ngenge Stars Popote, featuring Fataki Lokassa, released this record in Kenya (Universal Sounds USD 005) in the early '80s. Moreno is relegated to supporting vocals:

Bana Ngenge Stars Popote - Dunia Imelaniwa Pts. 1 & 2

After serving stints with Orchestra Shika-Shika, Les Noirs (both featured in From Congo to Kenya Pt. 1) and Orchestre Virunga, Moreno started Moja One in Nairobi in 1980 and recorded "Dunia si Yako si Yangu" (CBS/ACP 702) around 1983:

Moreno & Moja One - Dunia si Yako si Yangu Pts. 1 & 2Finally Moreno shows up as part of the pop/disco trio the Kenya Blue Stars, along with Margaret Safari & Sheila (pictured at the top of this post), who recorded this infectious little ditty (CBS/ACP 1201) in 1984:

Kenya Blue Stars - Shufa Pts. 1 & 2

Along with Jimmy Monimambo and Frantal Tabu (about whom more below), one of Moreno's colleagues in Shika-Shika was Lovy Mokolo Longomba, whose high-pitched voice was a perfect counterpoint to Moreno's. His father was Vicky Longomba, a founding member of OK Jazz, and his brother Awilo Longomba, is one of the biggest stars of contemporary Congo music. Lovy moved from Kinshasa to Nairobi in 1978 and joined Les Kinois, a predecessor of Orchestra Virunga. His sojourn there lasted only three months, after which he left for stints with Boma Liwanza and Super Mazembe. While a part of Orchestra Shika-Shika, he also helmed his own band, which recorded under the names Orchestre Super Lovy and Bana Likasi. Sadly, Lovy Longomba died in an auto accident in Tanzania in 1996. Here he is on Editions Lovy 01:

Orchestre Super Lovy - Elee Pts. 1 & 2

Frantal Tabu (picture below), like Moreno Batamba, hails from Kisangani, and also played a role in Orchestra Shika-Shika, as well as Boma Liwanza and other bands. He formed Orchestra Vundumuna in 1984, which also featured Ugandan Sammy Kasule on vocals. Here is a recording Frantal Tabu made with Orchestre Malekesa du Zaire on the Editions du Hudson label (EDH 01):

Frantal Tabu & Orchestre Malekesa du Zaire - Asali Pts. 1 & 2

Finally, here are a couple of sides in the style made famous by Verckys & Orchestre Veve, from a group I know nothing about. I don't know for sure that Python Mas's group Zaire Success was based in East Africa, although the name gives a clue (groups that were actually based in Congo/Zaire didn't usually include "Zaire" in the name), and this 45 (sides A & B of Africa AFR 7-36) was pressed in Kenya:

Python Mas & Orchestre Zaire Success - Sofia Motema

Python Mas & Orchestre Zaire Success - Mado

For more about these artists and many more I refer you once again to Alastair Johnston's essential article
Congolese/Zaïrean Musicians in East Africa.


kabuga said...

Thanks John B for Dunia imelaaniwa. I have looked for it for a long time. Please post some banalikasi stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks J. Biden's by this Post , i love this sound!!

Farid Martinez Acosta
Barranquilla Colombia

Anonymous said...

What can you say about the synths in Dunia si Yako? Ouch! Luckily the rest of the song and Moreno's voice more than makes up for this. Many thanks, John, for these tracks.


kabuga said...

I don't know whether i am the only one with this problem but link is breaking when the download is around halfway for all the songs in this post.

Is there something that you can do, John?? The rest of your earlier postings have been ok.

John B. said...

Joe: Yes, the synths are not optimal, but they give "Dunia" that authentic '80s patina!

Kabuga: I downloaded all the songs easily. Perhaps the problem is on your end? Has anyone else out there had this problem?

Anonymous said...

Hi John
Just dropping a note to let you know how much your posts are appreciated! I'm a frequent visitor to your site - thanks for the musical treasures.


Ntwiga said...


Do not know how I missed this one! Thanks for Moreno. A while back, I posted a kenya Blue Stars track that I thought had Moreno on vocals but I was later corrected - it turned out to be Cuthbert Mbocha. I did get things right with this Orchestra Moja One track though.

I have to agree with you fully - if there ever was a time when Kenyan music was blessed with a ton of golden voices backed by superb groups, it was in that 80s era - with Samba, Les Wanyika's Issa Juma, Longomba, Mbocha and more notably Moreno and even Kifoto all doing superb jobs with lead vocals of a bunch of different groups (some people may not agree but one mans meat is anothers poison).

Thanks for the post.

One last thing, Doug Paterson has been working on a re-release of a collection of Issa Juma and Super Wanyika music that can be picked up at Sterns - I think that he mentioned that it will be available on Amazon in about a week or so.

Unknown said...

Batamba moreno bibi harusi ..i will be happy again