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The undying rumba sound

By | October 11th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Caroline Nyanga

Sporting an expensive grey suit with shoes to match, Laurent Nyboma Mwandido, backed by his Royal Palian band, stepped onto the stage at Club Afrique shortly after midnight last Saturday.

The crowd went wild, screaming as they sang along to his songs, Double Double and Nina, among others.

His non-stop soft rumba hits kept revellers on their feet for hours on end.

Roi Babel (left) performs with Nyboma at Club Afrique in Nairobi last weekend. The popularity of Congolese rumba and soukous in Kenya has not waned over the years. Photo: Boniface Okendo/Standard

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And even when his time was up, fans kept asking for more as they compared him to Congolese maestros Franco, Madilu and Pepe Kalle.

Nyboma was playing in Kenya for the third time.

"This is the kind of music the late Franco Luambo Makiado specialised in," said the 55-year-old Nyboma, who, apart from being a vocalist, plays the guitar and keyboard.

Preceding him on stage was lead singer and composer Roi Babel, 44, with his Kinshasa based band belting out their evergreen hits such as Fanita, Maria Moses, Djafar, Shamita, Sans Effet, Fanta, Musee Ya Diamant, Okongo Marcel and Bruno Dika Djafar from the Frere Eduard album.

"We are here to bring back our old sound, that has not changed over the years. Rumba will always remain rumba and nobody can ever change it," Babel stated at one point in between his performances.

Warbling voice

The hundreds of music lovers who thronged the entertainment spot shows that Kenyans still have taste for Congolese music.

"Nyboma combines the guitar skills of Syran Mbenza with a warbling voice better than Madilu’s or Pepe Kalle’s. He has the creativity of Franco," says Jane Ogola, 54. Richard Ombati, 52, describes Babel as one of the most talented artistes Kinshasa has ever produced.

Ombati, who has been dancing to rumba and soukous music for more than three decades, says it is the danceable beats that attract him.

"Unlike other music, you can dance to it and enjoy it without necessarily knowing what messages it relays. Each time I listen to rumba, I realise it is here to stay."

Clement Osmond, 26, a Lingala enthusiast, says originality has made the music the choice for many decades.

Long career

During the formative stages of his career, Nyboma sang with Orchestre Negro Success in the 1960s.

In 1969, he joined Baby National, then Bella Bella for two years before forming Lipua Lipua, later known as Les Kamale after the smash hit, Kamale. Nyboma has starred in African All Stars and Les Quatre Etoiles.

He has teamed up with Bopol Mansiamina, Wuta Mayi, Madilu System, Kamale, Lokassa Ya Mbongo, Kofi Olomide and Syran Mbenza among other famous musicians.

However, it is collaborations with Pepe Kalle that are widely known in Kenya.

Nyboma has lent his silken voice to hits such as Abissina, Okino, Lidy, Papy Sodolo, Sangoni, Stop Feu Rouge Anicet, Double Double and Ina Moyibi.

Babel worked with Madilu for many years. While he was junior to Madilu, he was the person who took charge of the band.

He joined at the time when diabetes weighed down on Madilu. Nyboma’s tour ends this week while Babel remains in Kenya for two years working as a residential band member.

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