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Country Tanzania Genres band jazz traditional fusion Website Festival Sauti za Busara: 2012, 2015 Recordings
Dunia Hii (2010); Jasho Langu (2011)
Biyi Adepegba, Art Director of Joyful Noise Recordings UK and the London African Music Festival has described Leo Mkanyia's music as blues which recalls the wonder of the King of African Blues Ali Farka Toure. Rachel Boyle from New York Times admired the mix of Tanzanian drumming with blues melodies and dance. This is Leo Mkanyia's own unique and modern style, which he calls Swahili Blues. Leo Mkanyia has dared to go out of the mainstream, beyond the box. He found his niche, and has a strong following of local and international fans.
Leo was born in Dar es Salaam in 1981. He began playing guitar when he was eight years old. His father is an African jazz guitarist who played with the renowned Mlimani Park Orchestra. Leo spent years playing his father's guitar whilst alone in the house, copying the chords he'd seen his father play. Music doesn't pay in Tanzania, so Leo's father was adamant his son should follow another career. But when he found Leo playing a classic Tanzanian song one day, he decided to give his son his wish, and taught him all that he knew.
Today they play together, with Leo leading the band and his father on solo guitar. In 2010 Leo recorded a four-track CD, Dunia Hii. Leo released his first full-length album in August 2011, Jasho Langu, which received excellent reviews. He is completing a new album, to be released in coming months.
Leo has played at the London African Music Festival in 2011, Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar in 2012, and Bayimba Festival in Uganda in 2013.
Leo's songs are poignant; they portray the realities of life in Tanzania. His songs celebrate Africa's history and culture, tell stories of migration from village to town, gender inequality and empowerment of women, politics and poor governance, and love. In his music you'll hear throwbacks to the 70s and 80s with classic Tanzanian zilipendwa muziki-wa-dansi, but with a contemporary twist, blues, and afrobeat. All are original representations of Tanzanian traditional blues, a genre which Leo is adamant must be preserved.