Lingala Fever

Tunaiita ‘Lingala’, but really Lingala is the language. Ulaya they call it ‘Soukous’ lakini whatever you call it is is unmistakable. The moment you hear those tingling guitars, you amka and start dancing whilst they sing “mama mundu ehh.. na bolingo o-yoo” Aaah I love that music sana sana.

When Lingala fever tokead in Nairobi, circa 1991, I fikiri it was Kanda Bongo Man who made even mathes and fithes shake their bolingos when he sang “kwasa kwasa.” Hata I kumbuka my kid-cousin singing that song, and when she heard Kanda anza “eeh mwana ngu saaii” aah she would simama and show everyone the moves. Lakini Kanda was kidogo gimmicky, what with his balloon-like trousers and a haircut that can cut mkate.

I fikiri Pepe Kalle was/is the Rolls-Royce of Lingala; for some reason, every thing he ever tokead with was just perfection. Listen to his album ‘Larger than life’ and amua that music has never aged. He was a kubwa man, was it him that used to eat mingi eggs? I also have a sahani by Pepe Kalle’s 90s band ‘Empire Bakuba’ – from market mamas in Kinshasa and Kenyatta marko to jungu backpacker types, I fikiri every world music fan enjoys his music.

The days of Lingala anzaad kitambo. I was somaiing ati it actually began amongst wakina Franco, Sam Mangwana, Nyboma, Wuta Mayi, when they were hanging out in West Africa and Cameroon in the 70s. Kwa hivyo Lingala music is based on West African high-life (“shake body-o, not so?”), Cameroonian Makossa, Congolese Rumba (ever heard ‘Co-operation’ by Franco/Mangwana? A 15 minute song). Can you imagine going in a time machine and ingiaing a densi with kina Pepe Kalle on stage? Wooii. Wapi time travel?

Real instruments, lyrics with maana, combinations and key changes that shangaza, and no pretensions of being “westernised.” Hata even when they imba in French, the kitamaduni nature of the music remains.

When Lingala fever was seizing every stereo and radio and music progi, there were a few Congolese (not Congo-Brazzaville, but former Zaire, now DRCongo) families that moved into our esto. Kumbuka around that time, the military fujo tolewad by Mobutu Sese Seko (full name: “Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku wa Zabanga” – can you imagine kiddos in Kinshasa playgrounds just chezaing with that name! ha ha ha). So we had a few Zairean hunks let loose in the neighbourhood. Quickly, one of them kamatad the esto splengo. She and her jamii had just moved from Stato. Another Zairean guy conquered several of the esto housies, lakini when one said she’d toshad him, he physically kimbishad her round the esto with him saying ati “mama! Na kosana nini ehh?” with her kimbiaing bila turning back hata she lost her slippers on the way.

So there would be impromptu Lingala parties, with every vinyl record a kitamaduni DJ could wish for. And also the Zaireans, along with TZ-eans in the esto, pendad rice. Yani if you nyima them rice it’s vibaya sana, and I also happen to penda rice with a passion, so there’d be plates of pilau being kulwad, afterwhich the watu wazima would dance to Lingash and kunywa Tusker.

Even with all that utamaduni stuff going on, with so many Lingala musicians in Nai (as well as local Benga ones, kumbuka “vunja mifupa”?), the ubaya thing is that non-western music was deemed to be “uncool” by some. It was like if someone sikilizad those types of music, they’d be said to be “uncool.” I didn’t really appreciate that music until I grew up – and, irony sana, until I went to ulaya. I can walk into a music store in central London and find more African music than if I trawled through the whole of Nai’s central business district. A couple of years ago nilienda Yaya, ati to check out local music, and the shop assistant twirled her hair-weave and angaliad me like ‘oh we don’t deal with those kinds of music.’ It’s so pathetic. Aki if I was in siasa, I would have had her arrested. Ha hah. Make it the law for African music to be sold in every music shop, kama hawataki watoke hiyo nchi.

From Tabu Ley, to Tshala Mwana, from Mbilia Bel, to Les Quatre Etoiles (Syran, Bopol, Wuta Mayi and Nyboma). And don’t forget Koffi Olomide and his ndombolo. Even the names of Lingala musicians are just so mzuri: akini Dally Kimoko, Lokassa ya Mbongo (aah I love that name), then there are names like Dilu Dilomana. My favourite is Nyboma. His album ‘Anicet’ has never dated.

I saw a docu about Papa Wemba who ishis in Paris, and jameni that man was misbehaving sana with the ladies. It’s vizuri that huko Paris, all the Zairean people haven’t sahaud their culture and muziki, hata it’s in Pari that most of the muziki is recorded. You ona their mamis on stage, all ages and sizes, representing themselves. Kumbuka Yondo Sister, and those dancers in Lingash videos. Weh! The way they’d zungusha their limbs it was like they’d katika at the waist.

Sasa, if you want timeless Lingash, angalia anything produced by Ibrahim Sylla (he’s actually Malian/Senegalese, lakini that man is a Maestro sana with all genres of muziki ya Afrika). Songs produced by Sylla like ‘Manuela’ (sung by Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca), Zonga Aime (Pepe Kalle), Papy Sodolo/Coup de fil (Quartre Etoiles), Bapasi (Tshala Mwana) just furahisha someone. Manze I can andika all day about this music, even though I’m still learning about it, kwa jili there was so much Lingala produced in the 90s.

There was an episode of Vioja Mahakamani whereby a mshtakiwa woman allegedly had an affair with a Zairean man who was a musician, mpaka her husband stormed his music set and destroyed all his guitars and equipment. The woman denied all charges. Then the prosecutor asked her “well then how come all your watois are named ‘Bulanda’ and ‘Lokiyo-Boyo’”? Hah hah hah yani I chekad so much my tumbo hurt. Maze that programme is a national treasure.

I went to a party in Nai not too long ago and the hostess was from TZ. All afte and evening she to-ad for us Lingala albums that just shangazaad us, yani I thought I was a collector lakini kuna mingi Soukous albums and groups I have yet to jua. Long live Lingala fever. As for the language itself, Lingala words sound so vizuri, I hope to learn it one day. If you speak Swaha you can understand many of them, ‘cause Lingala’s a Lingua Franca like Swaha, but sometimes not knowing what the words mean makes music even more délicieux.


At 3:47 pm, Blogger Msanii_XL said...

Franco and Pepe Kalle is all you need, they were in their own worlds..every now and then i dust up the few tapes i have...and just get lost/vibe in those 10-15 minute songs...

btw how did it come some words were incoporated into sheng? l

Great post

At 6:03 pm, Blogger Poi said...

2nd here yippie! and reading away...

At 6:24 pm, Blogger Poi said...

Can't confess to ever been a lingala fan vile. But, some singers like kina Tshala Mwana, Pepe Wemba just relate to some of their songs sana or is it just a rub off of the fever? hehhehe

Hheheh that saga at the yaya shop, I'm feeling you if you ever go politics we'll harakisha to chomoa such ignorant ppl from the republic lols

I'm also with you about V.M. yenyewe that progi is off kabisa. Yani you can't even begin to imagine how they come up with some of those shows,way too comic.

Yet anutha great read from you...

At 5:55 am, Blogger fayvalady3 said...

love love this blog! memories of mbilia bel and kanda bongoman. i miss simba ngoma at carni sana!

At 6:03 pm, Anonymous acolyte said...

My you know your stuff when it comes to lingala....

At 1:36 am, Blogger Shilingi-Moja said...

Aiih! Naenjoy sana blog yako. I soma it out loud to my mke and we both cheka a lot. Hata ingawa we are kaaring Marekani for now, tunamiss Kenya after kaaring there for 18+ miaka.


At 4:41 pm, Blogger nick said...

damn as i know my babyface u sure as hell know ur lingala... i have bever been a fan but for some reason in pri school i bought a San Fan Thomas tape...remember that song which corrupted used to go " eh nduma..tupatie nduma..."

At 6:46 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Msanii_xl: for sure that mambo of 10-15 minute songs is mzuri, yani it allows musicians to vibe with each other and with their instruments bila time constraints

@ Poi: I wish I could serve virtual drinks/food (tea and mandao esp.) so y'all can jiburudisha kabisa Kenyan style whilst on my site. Aww well.. one day maybe technologia itaweza hiyo..
I also wish TV could be more tradi, though; kumbuka akina urtna.

@ Fayvalady3: Karibu sana. Kumbuka when Kanda was banned from Kenya by Mo1 sijui siasa... and that song by Tabu Ley singing Mo1's praises, just shows how much Lingala was vivrant in Kenya - hata Moi got in on the drama!!

@ Acolyte: I wish I could get to Kinshasa one day and really vumbua all the albums that mtu can't pata elsewhere. River Rorry area in Nai also has a lot of stuff

@ Shilingi-moja: karibu sana. A long time since I heard the word 'ingawa' it made me smile kabisa. 18 years! Wow, if you have 70s memories of Nai, pliz share

@ Nick: ha ha, yani there are also some Lingala words which can raise eyebrows in other languages!!

@ all: nimetoroka mashambani for Chrisi, so pateni sikukuu njema and lay off the keroro peoples!!
;-) Those nyumbani, who's going to SEE their Christmas day chicken or mbuzi before they later eat it?? ha ha aaahh I miss nchi

hadi mwaka new :-)

At 12:21 pm, Anonymous m said...

LOL! I kumbuka those unbeleivably baggy trousers pulled right up to the armpits and the shiny shoes

At 2:48 am, Blogger fayvalady3 said...

I kumbuka there were rumours ati kanda bongoman was tuning mo1's girl supposedly catherine kasavuli. Mo1 got really pissed off! Apparently that was the sababu he was banned from Kenya. As for those trousers pulled up to the armpits that M mentioned, i really used to chukia them sana. i remember one Zairean trying to tune me while vaaring them. I told him to potea sana.

At 7:32 pm, Blogger Poi said...

Merry, Merry Xmas & Happy New Year :)

At 2:49 pm, Blogger Adrian said...

spent the past few days listening to some lingala with my uncles and aunties, with them telling us "kids" about how good that music used to be and stuff.

i must admit, i've never been a big fan, but nowadays i appreciate it more that back in the days.

i remember kanda bongo man back in the days. if i'm not mistaken, i think i even saw him live at the all african games at kasarani in 1988.

enjoy home and happy new year!!

At 2:24 pm, Blogger gishungwa said...

My all time faves are mbilia bel, sam fan thomas, tp ok jazz, milimani jazz band you know all those rhumba guys and it was professor naaman of the " baba kambo na mama kambo nani aliye mbaya..." fame was the one who did a tray of eggs on the easy great post brought back lot of memoies and great info. will start my own collection.

At 11:32 am, Blogger Prousette said...

Happy New year memoire, Stilldonot know how the lingala word 'bolingo' got to mean 'naked' some time ago, any ideas?
Lovely post.

At 4:29 am, Blogger fayvalady3 said...

I cannot get over this. nime download, hizo nyimbo zote, since somaing this blog. kweli lingala rocks. it's funny vile you've used the word "maze" sana on your blog. my big sis says that it's actually from a tabu ley song also called "maze" that kenyans were so crazy about, that it became part of sheng! as I write this I've just downloaded "nadina" by mbilia, Tabu and faya tess. excuse me while I go shake my booty!

At 2:41 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ M: yep so funny how "fashion" is a very relative and short-lived concept.

@ Favyalady3: aii yani kumbe that storo of Kasavuli and Mo1 was true? At least now Kanda can tune her anytime (and give some ziki whilst at it!!)

@ Poi: backatchya (belated though)

@ Adrian: sasa, hope you're having a nice time. I wasn't in Kenya, but a diff. mashambani (the land of Mojitos and cigars).

@ Gishungwa: "..baba kambo mama kambo.." yani that just brought back at least ten forgotten memories.

@ Prousette: ha ha for real? I think bolingo means 'love' in Lingala.

@ Fayvalady3: yani somaring your comment furahishad me so much. I'm so happy that you went and checked the muziki out, downloading and all. I wish more people do that, 'cause it's supporting African music directly. Hongera sana kwako Fayvalady :-)

At 11:07 pm, Blogger Brother Jero (BJ) said...

Love Lingala.

At 5:44 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ BJ: karibu, karibu


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