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Why Sam Mangwana loves Kenya and East Africans

 Sam Mangwana

When he released the hit song Maria Tebola in 1983 and thereafter Suzanna Coulibaly, Sam Mangwana proved to the world that he was a Rhumba icon.

His captivating voice has significantly contributed to the growth of Rhumba music in Africa and the world.

His melodious voice made him loved in the continents of Africa, Europe and the Americas and he is well respected for of his work.

Even though the continent was full of unmatchable talents, his music was here to stay.

“Rhumba music is made and manufactured in Africa and it will not change anytime soon despite lots of competition. We are always ready to give our fans worldwide what they deserve from live shows, recorded music and YouTube Channels throughout the world,” Sam Mangwana told the Sunday magazine from Luanda, Angola.

Mangwana, who was born and grew up in Kinshasa to an Angolan father and Zimbabwean mother, said the music will still survive the test of time for decades to come, owing to unmatchable talent in the continent.

“This is a career that has made us tour the world from our heydays to date,” he said.

After living and working in several countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas in his six-decade career, Mangwana has settled back in his mother country Angola.

“Although I have settled in Angola, that does not mean we cannot receive invitations to perform in any part of the world. I am ready to perform anywhere,” said the 79-year-old artiste who celebrated his birthday on February 21.

In Luanda, he involves himself in live shows in a city where the national language is Portuguese, although its people also speak Lingala, English and French.

Mangwana, who is multilingual, said he would like to visit Kenya.

“I am ready to come to Kenya if I can land a fully sponsored trip to entertain my East African fans. Hopefully, it could happen soon since I have also longed to come to Nairobi,” he said.

Mangwana last visited Kenya in 1986 when he recorded the Kiswahili songs Furaha Ya Bibi ni Kuwa na Bwana and Lugha Ya Mapenzi with then PolyGram Limited, under the stewardship of Justus Kasoya and Nairobi-based Congolese band Orchestra Les Mangelepa.

“I love Kenya because of its cultural diversity and the hospitality of her people, which has seen many Congolese musicians make Nairobi their permanent home over the years,” he said.

However, he was quick to point out that not many Kenyans are aware of the strong attachment they (Congolese musicians) have to their country Kenya.

Mangwana said there is a new generation of young artistes and Rhumba fans who have embraced some songs he composed and sung in the 80s, which include Odongo and Fatimata.

The Rhumba maestro performed Odongo in collaboration with the late Franco Luambo Makiadi of the defunct TPOK Jazz Band.

He said that while performing abroad just like other international musicians, he hires the services of experienced artistes.

Despite the passing on of his contemporaries Madilu System, Simarro Masiya, Josky Kiambukuta and Tabu Ley Rocheureu, Sam has persistently produced music, maintaining a distinctive style.

“It was a shock they have all gone within a short period and I wish they would have lived long. Some of them were my mentors and I will live cherishing their names.”

To maintain his physical fitness, Mangwana goes to the gym and is involved in sports like swimming.

His months in the bush with the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the independence struggles of Angola form part of his rich cultural background.

He got his primary education while still in the bush.

“I dropped out of the bush after I developed asthmatic complications. I am happy to have been involved in the liberation struggles of my country,” he said.

While in Angola, Mangwana maintained his collaboration with local artistes which led to the composition of Cantos de Esperanga in 2003.

Surviving members of TPOK Jazz like Wuta Mayi have in the past attested to the enduring legacy of the music icon.

His songs Furaha ya Bibi and Kabibi impart wisdom on women, reflecting his mastery of Kiswahili.

Despite his worldly experiences, Mangwana is not keen to share his family experiences and background.

From his debut, African Fiesta in 1963 to hits like Maria Tebbo and collaboration with Orchestra TPOK Jazz, Sam’s journey underscores the timeless allure of his music, epitomised by his continued performances across the globe.

I love Kenya because of her rich culture and; that is why Congolese musicians get stuck in Kenya,” said the former Orchestra All Stars band leader.

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