The last lap on region’s most popular music genres

Monday, January 18th, 2021 00:00 |
Josephine Medza,

For two years now, there has been a quiet revolution at the Kenyan Coast. One of the region’s most popular music genres, bango, has been undergoing a generational shift. Jasmine Atieno looks at how this phenomenon has been unfolding.

Bango music remains one of the most celebrated original types of music from the Kenyan Coast.

This genre was originally created and popularised by the legendary Joseph Ngala aka Mzee Ngala.

Bango fuses traditional Portuguese music, Arabic-influence, jazz and music of local coastal Bantu languages.

Mzee Ngala also founded the Bahari Boys Band in the 1960s. As the main composer, he created the song Bango, which also became the originator of the genre of his music after it attracted adoration from his listeners.

Through the years, many artistes joined the bango scenes, copying his style. While some maintained the creation style, things changed about two years ago when younger artistes from the Coast joined the space and decided to create a new fusion called nzele-bango, which sounds more appealing to the younger generation of bango lovers.

Nzele is now being hailed as the future of bango music. It fuses the original bango with Salsa (Cuba) and mwanzele, which is the traditional Giriama music.

Ricky Melodies’ Muchangu is one of the first songs off the new nzele sub-genre. It took over the scenes by a storm and, according to Ricky, the song is still his best among his fans.

“I joined the music industry in 2011, and I did not just start with bango; I had earlier tried bongo music.

But once I created Muchangu, it was an instant hit, so I decided to ride on it. You see the original bango by Mzee Ngala was for an elderly audience, without consideration for the younger generation with more adrenaline. Also he sang only in Kiswahili.

I thought, if Congolese artistes sing in Lingala and still win, why don’t I do the same with my mothertongue?

This became the inspiration for more music,” says Ricky, adding that nzele has more potential, especially because it has created employment opportunities for the bands that have joined in the art.

Younger audience

Manu Baya joined the bango scenes in 2013. In this time, all the artistes were doing the same ‘Swahili Casanova’, and he jumped on the bandwagon.

But with time, there was an urge to meet the needs of the younger audience, and in 2014, he created Conny na Charo with a Mijikenda chorus and voila!

“People loved the chorus so much and this encouraged me. Baraka William pushed me to do more and even took me to the studio.

The difference is in the instruments. Nzele is more traditional Giriama music, but with a mix of Ngala’s rhumba-inspired style.

Nzele started only two years ago, but has more potential than the original bango. Nevertheless, we still need to market it more and push it to bigger audiences,” says Baya.

The evolution of bango has widened its listening curve, with the new version bringing a more danceable feel.

According to radio show host Josephine Medza, she gets a lot of requests to play the new music during her Mtekerenyo show on Msenangu FM.

“Many young people gravitate towards the danceable bango (nzele) rather than the slow version of it. So, I have to try and mix different songs and also are considerate of what the fans want.

Importantly, I have to maintain the balance, so as not to look like I am discriminating on some of our listeners.

Bango is continuously growing and artistes are making more money compared to how things were in the past,” shares Medza, adding that out of the popularity of the music on social media and other digital channels such as YouTube its audience has increased exponentially.

Last word

While the fusion and evolution of bango is unstoppable, Mzee Ngala feels the new artistes should have found a name for the genre and not call it bango. He says, “I keep hearing them mention zegede, and I think they should have called it that instead of bango.

When I was young, there were different types of rhumba, so we tried to sing for our elders.

Bango was the name of the song we sung, and the people decided to call the creation ‘bango’. And it became so, but essentially bango is rhumba.”

He adds, “This new one called nzele is still rhumba mixed with traditional Giriama style; it is not the same as bango (the original). This is rather fast. If it is what they want, then it is good.

You see music changes with time. Today’s generation has now chosen and decided what makes them happy.

And I can’t stand in the way of that because every music has its own time; if they are happy with it then it is all that matters,” Mzee intimated to Spice. 

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