Legendary Congolese band Orchestre Les Mangelepa is marking 40 years of making music with a tour of Europe.
The tour will see them perform at various festivals in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Netherlands and Switzerland.
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. 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 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. 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.
Their remarkable story is one of survival and endurance: after nearly 40 years, they still perform every week at Vibro in Nairobi West, bucking the current trend for DJs and smaller ensembles with up to 12 musicians on stage, including a full horn section. The surviving members from the original Mangelepa are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.
To celebrate 40 years on stage, Orchestre Les Mangelepa will be performing at a select number of European summer festivals, including Amsterdam Roots and the Hertme Afrika Festival in the Netherlands in early July. Confirmed dates for their upcoming tour are as follows:
- 29 June: Praha Respect Music Festival - Prague, Czech Republic
- 30 June: Fusion Festival - Larz, Germany
- 1 July: Brussel Recyclart - Brussels, Belgium
- 2 July: Amsterdam Roots - Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 3 July: Hertme Afrika Festival - Hertme, Netherlands
- 6 July: Berlin Urban Spree - Berlin, Germany
- 7 July: Pardon - Warsaw, Poland
- 10 July: Lausanne Festival de La Cite - Lausanne, Switzerland
- 11 July: Geneve Ecoutes Au Vert - Geneva, Switzerland
Before leaving for Europe, Les Mangelepa performed on Thursday 16 June at Choices pub in Nairobi.