Meet Congolese rhumba maestro Kanda Bongo Man
Congolese rhumba maestro KANDA BONGO MAN was in town as the headline performer in the Koroga Festival over the weekend. He chats with HARRIET JAMES about his music and love for Kenya
What makes you want to perform in Kenya over and over again?
The Kenyan people give me their heart and unlimited love, which is something I have always found amazing.
When they do that I also, in exchange, show them that I care too by never declining an invitation to come and entertain them.
It’s a gift from God and you have to give it to them in the best way you can. I feel at home while here.
You are rated as one of Africa’s greatest musicians of all time. What’s the secret behind your captivating music?
I haven’t discovered the secret to this yet…ha-ha-ha, but maybe it’s because I am just diligent and passionate in what I do.
I keep rehearsing; I am always searching for something new to continue being unique in the continent. Our biggest desire as entertainers is to always make our fans happy.
I have also never given up on my talent, because when you love your job, you pursue it and also look for something fresh for the fans all the time.
What’s your take about the new ‘Afro Congo’ beat that is disrupting the traditional rhumba sound?
Each generation has its own kind of music. Even in my time, I revolutionised and introduced structural changes in the soukous sub-genre of rhumba.
I encouraged guitar solos after every verse and sometimes went as far as even doing it at the beginning of the song.
This introduced the ‘kwasa kwasa’ dance rhythm, which I became famous for. So, I am always inspired by the creativity of the young people.
I meet them in the streets of Kinshasa doing their dance and sooner than later, it becomes a hit and it makes me proud.
We are curious too and as a parent, I can only urge them to not relent in their pursuit for greatness through their talents.
Rhumba is the mother of all the Congolese music and when they (some young musicians) stray, they still come back and sing to it or its rhythm. You can’t possibly run away from it.
You’ve been around the music scenes for many decades. Do you have any personal regrets?
I strongly believe I don’t have any. I trust myself that I have done what I could in life and that everything happens for a reason.
My achievements, failures and challenges have all contributed in making me the person I am. Rather than regretting, I choose to celebrate the moments in life.
What would you prefer to be remembered for?
One thing is for sure; you cannot work all of your years here on earth. You have to stop somewhere and leave it to someone else, most likely a younger one.
The time will come when I’ll retire from the stage and I have a strong belief that I will leave a great music legacy.
Your music career has been illustrious. What has kept you going for this long?
My work. This music is my work. The performing, song writing, recording, travelling and working with young artistes have all given me the impetus to keep going.
Loving and sharing what I have with others always give the joy and peace of mind.
There are many of young aspiring musicians who look up to you. What’s your advice to them?
They should watch us, the older ones, and learn because with old age comes wisdom. You need to learn a lot to be great. Music is not just about singing, but it also entails a lot of discipline even when you are tired.
When, for instance, a show is scheduled to start at 8pm, it’s not right for you to arrive at the venue at midnight; you will kill your career!
You have to respect the audience and everyone else involved. This is what the new generation of musicians needs to learn.