21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine Review:

Rediscovering African Music in London
Ronald Elly Wanda

To many an African-live-band-fan, it is stimulating to once again see ‘Africa Jambo Band’ constructively drumming up mimetic harmonic melodies at the latest East African enterprise in north London, the Duke Banquet of Turnpike lane. Qualms of the ongoing credit crunch that have severed relations between the pocket and the ‘plastic friend’ seems not to have deterred punters’ moods on Fridays at the Banquet, which thanks to Jambo Africa, have turned into "Furahidays" (happy Fridays); reminiscent of road-block-like ‘Mulembe nights’ at Nairobi’s world famous Carnivore.

It is rejuvenating watching Rama (lead singer) and the Kawele-led Jambo Africa band in action. Papa Kawele Mutimanwa, is a former graduate of giant East African names, some of whom include Congolese guitar genius Mose se Sengo "Fan Fan" (former lead guitarist of Franco Luambo), Tanzania’s Remmy Ongala aka ‘Sura Mbaya’ (who’s credited amongst many, with Kifo, Muziki etc) and Sam Mangwana (now in Abidjan) with his group African All Stars.

Papa Kawele, like most singers and players, later left the competitive and bloated Kinshasa scene in the 1970s for Dar-Saalam and Nairobi, where becoming a big fish in a small pond was increasingly the norm for most Congolese musical troupes. Today in Britain, listening to him alongside his band playing live is the nearest one comes to slicing East Africa's rich musical heritage thousands of miles away from the motherland. Live African music, has thus come to embody tradition. In away, it has the capacity to clarify and articulate or sometimes even forge popular bond between cultural affairs and political existence, especially so in the diasporal shores, where many young people of African origin are increasingly perplexed.

For the benefit of my good friend Henry, and other westernised Africans like him, that often refer to live African music as either:"boring, or monotonously repetitive, and dulls the senses", I wish to clarify to them that the sole objective of African music, unlike their western preference, has always been to translate everyday experiences into living sound, to depict life and nature therefore making it comparably richer. It has done this in two ways, first through the themes and concerns of the music we hear and secondly of the issues and events that constitute a peoples history. In other words, our music documents our history through soundtracks that are woven of events, moments and experiences. Indeed certain songs, for me, such as Super Mazembe’s Kassongo, Franco’s Azda, Mbilia Bel’s Nairobi or even Elly Wamala’s Enkuba mudungu carry the capacity to make me recall a particular place or a specific event. Rama and Kawele’s Jambo Africa Band’s exhilarating live performances at the Duke Banquet are a therapeutical cultural experience in the diaspora where one finds himself surrounded by a cycle full of aesthetic poverty.

© Ronald Elly Wanda MCIJ is a political scientist based in London.

More Reviews


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.