She was born in Lubumbashi on March 13, 1958 and made her way to Kinshasa in 1976, where she joined M'Pongo Love's orchestra as a dancer. After recording two singles that didn't make a mark, she joined the group Minzoto Wella-Wella. It was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, though, where she would make the acquaintance of the musician and arranger Jimmy Hyacinthe in 1981, that she finally made her breakthrough with her smash hit "Amina." Gary Stewart writes in Rumba on the River (Verso Book, London/New York, 2000):
With her straightened hair and evening gown, Tshala resembled one of the Supremes as she glided on stage at the cultural center of Abidjan’s Treichville neighborhood. She sang her songs and danced the mutuashi, a traditional dance of the Baluba from Zaire’s Kasai province. ‘Mutuashi,’she explained, was a Tshiluba word, a shout of encouragement for dancers that eventually became synonymous with the dance itself, and with Tshala Muana too. Subsequent appearances in Abidjan increased her nascent following.
In 1982, financed by money borrowed from a friend, she flew to Paris with Hyacinthe’s band to cut a record. The A side, ‘Amina’ - a song given her by guitarist Souzy Kasseya, whom she’d met in M’Pongo Love’s band - packs a funky West African feel and lots of brass in support of Tshala’s tart commentary.
Amina, shake my hand.
Even if you’re my opponent in this run-off.
I can’t hold it against you.
The world is like that, today it’s you, tomorrow it’s me.
Amina, I know what I think,
I’ve known a long time:
A man is like a hospital bed that takes in all the sick.
When you’re there it’s you,
When I’m there it’s me.
Tshala sang ‘Amina’ in French to reach the widest possible audience, while the B side, ‘Tshebele,’ presented a more traditional piece with a percussion driven sebene in the mutuashi style and lyrics in Tshiluba. Back in Abidjan, the finished disc was reported to have sold more than 11,000 copies in Cote d’Ivoire alone.Amina / Tshebele was licensed to Roland Francis's African Record Centre in Brooklyn (African Record Centre ARCS 3690) and released in the US to little notice, but nonetheless, Tshala was on her way to international fame:
Tshala Muana - Amina
Tshala Muana - Tshebele
Here's another US pressing from the early '80s (Disco Stock-Makossa DMGM 500, 1984):
Tshala Muana - Akouffa
Download Amina/Tshebele as a zipped file here.
Download Akouffa/Chokepansh as a zipped file here.
Download Mbanda Matiere as a zipped file here.