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Country DRC Kenya Genres band rumba Website www.soundafrica.net Festival Sauti za Busara 2012 Recordings
Giants of East Africa (2001); Greatest Hits Remix (2007)
Of all the bands that immigrated to East Africa, Super Mazembe has stood the test of time.
Super Mazembe started in 1969 in Likasi, near Lubumbashi, DRC as Super Vox. On tour in neighbouring Zambia during 1970, the band met Nashil Pichen Kazembe, a diehard supporter of one of Zaire’s top football clubs and TP Mzembe, who impressed on the band to change its name to Mazembe (Lingala, meaning bulldozer, suggesting their music had the same earthmoving effect). Kazembe subsequently become the band’s producer and manager and encouraged the band to move to Nairobi which had a thriving live music scene and better recording facilities. The band moved to Nairobi in 1974, via Tanzania, just as many a Congolese band did in the day.
They quickly found a willing audience and took the country by storm. They popularised their own dance style, mushosho, as they vied for popularity with rival groups Les Mangelepa, Les Kinois, Les Wanyika and Orchestra Virunga. Many bands were tied to specific venues by resident-band contracts, but Mazembe (now also known as Bana Mushosho) criss-crossed the country and toured in Tanzania and Uganda, setting audiences alight wherever they appeared.
Their biggest hit was "Shauri Yako", a cover song originally performed by Nguashi Ntimbo and Festival Du Zaire. Other songs still popular today include "Samba", "Bwana Nipe Pesa" and "Kassongo".
Mazembe’s ride to fame was interrupted when EMI closed shop in 1978. They moved to Al Records where they began to work with producer Felix Jakong’o for the next three years, but hit further obstacles when record sales slumped due to piracy.
In 1982, the group stopped recording altogether but continued performing. Little was heard of them until 2006 when Kasongo wa Kanema decided to revive the dream.
"I did not want the band to die. Many people were asking for Mazembe songs and the music was not available on CD, so we had to do something” says wa Kanema, who joined the band in 1978. “The result was a modernised rearrangement of some of Super Mazembe’s greatest hits that sound just as fresh as when they were recorded 20 – 30 years before.” The remix album relives the days when Bana Mushosho ruled East Africa’s live band scene with their belly-bottom outfits.
Superb recordings of the band survive, most notably on the 2001 compilation Giants of East Africa (Stern's & Earthworks). This album is universally recognised as an African classic, as produced by Trevor Herman who says, “All of the songs sparkle with something special: passionate vocals, razor-sharp guitar-licks, monumental bass lines, thrilling horns and a rhythm that demands your attention and forces you onto the dancefloor.”