Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

The Events Kahuna rekindles a 2016 night at The Alchemist Bar watching Orchestre Les Mangelepa and why he is excited to travel with them to Jinja for the Nyege Nyege Festival 2018. Have you joined the Nyege Nyege Festival party bus?

Originally from the Swahili-speaking part of Eastern Congo, Les Mangelepa have released more than 13 albums and penned some of East Africa’s best-loved songs. The band was formed as an offshoot of Orchestre Baba National of Baba Gaston, which first arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1972 and soon started recording with the Tanzania Film Company and another label called Sindimba.

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Orchestre Les Mangelepa Changed the Course of East African Music / Image by Bandcamp

In 1973 they boarded an OTC bus to Nairobi to record. Once in the Kenyan capital, after playing for some time with Baba Gaston at the Inn on the Park restaurant at Uhuru Park and composing ‘Kakolele Viva Christmas’, the talented youngsters abandoned their mentor and formed Orchestre Les Mangelepa in 1976. Their name comes from ‘Mangelepa’, a dance that had been invented by founding member Kabanze Evany while still in Gaston’s band.

The Alchemist Bar Night

Each of the young acts who took the stage in explosive sets, provided beyond-quality music and poetry. Yet, there was this considerable hunger to see Les Mangelepa.

But in a period of receding social media tumult, the ‘Grand Mopao’ Koffi Olomide was being deported from Nairobi on the same night after he assaulted one of his dancers at the airport.

The senior citizens looked pretty good, straight from a Europe tour. Their revival on that Alchemist Bar wooden stage suited everyone—the Rhumba lovers, the media and even the event organisers.

Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

WIBO Culture’s Gregg Tendwa and the writer, Embukane Vincent Libosso aka The Events Kahuna at the Rhumba Today night at The Alchemist Bar back in 2016

After soaking up the coronation humbly, they returned for one last performance of the night. And they delivered one more time. Yet, we never doubted them from the onset. But how could we? They had said they would deliver.

Orchestre Les Mangelepa was back in centre stage, where they have always belonged from time immemorial.

When Orchestre Les Mangelepa rumbled in the Rhumba jungle over 40 years ago from Lubumbashi in D.R.C, they never predicted years down the line, the nu-Nairobi would be opening the stage night for them. Perhaps the most memorable night in the history of the genre.

WIBO Culture had put up an event dubbed “Rhumba Today” last Friday night—piecing together the urban-influenced sound of Rhumba by Red Acapella at The Alchemist Bar.

The stage needed their moves, style and noise. They were slower, of course, but their delivery had heavy punches.

Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

The Red Acapella Band on stage at Rhumba Today held at The Alchemist Bar

Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

Orchestre Les Mangelepa on stage at Rhumba Today held at The Alchemist Bar

They came to bathe in the glow of legends, legends who the party did not want them to leave. Their performance, surreal from the onset to the finish. They brought something special this night. So special that even the young nu-Nairobi Rhumba lovers, who were in majority wanted to tap into.

Orchestre Les Mangelepa coronation was completed on this stage. A coronation the legendary Makadem saw befitting for legendary cartoonist, Maddo to hand the certificate of Recognition to the band.

Congolese soukous

The group’s growing popularity in Kenya attracted other Congolese bands and before long there was cut-throat competition in Nairobi between Les Mangelepa, Les Kinois, Super Mazembe, and Viva Makale. Their ongoing success is testament to the influence of Congolese music on Kenya’s music scene, particularly in terms of.

Rhumba Today: The Night Orchestre Les Mangelepa Became Kings of Rhumba Again

Orchestre Les Mangelepa. Photo by Jacob Crawfurd

They were at the centre of the East Africa Rumba sound, in contrast to the Congolese soukous that dominated African pop music in the 1980s and 90s. Orchestre Les Mangelepa have thrilled fans throughout the region – including Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – by churning out hits such as ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Walter’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa’. Their brilliant arrangements and superbly crafted songs have kept legions dancing to their beat, aided by guitars, brass and vocal harmonies.

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