The story of the Orchestre Kiam is the archetypical Kinshasa music story. A group of neighbourhood friends with a blind passion for music grow up playing together in bands. Their energy, passion, talent, and youthful naïveté are exploited by older musicians and business men. These young musicians, nonetheless, create timeless music before the pressures of the Kinshasa music industry tear them apart. Thirty years later their songs endure and most of the musicians struggle to survive.

The majority of the members of Orchestre Kiam were born in the early to mid-1950s, part of the first generation to come of age in post-colonial Kinshasa. They met as adolescents, playing in bands in the commune of Barumbu, one of the oldest of Kinshasa's neighbourhoods, a tight community of tradesmen and their families living in company housing. The nucleus of the group grew up in the Camp ONATRA, the company housing built by the Office National des Transports starting in the 1920s. (Today, confusingly, the neighbourhood is referred to as Camp Kabinda or Camp Olsen, depending on who you talk with.)

Four of the founding members of the Orchestre Kiam started playing music together in 1969 in the Jacquis Boys, a group named after a university student from Barumbu named Jacques who had inherited some money and decided to sponsor a musical group. Jacques would occasionally participate in the rehearsals, singing a few songs with the group. This group included singers Bakolo Keta, Jeannot Botuli Ilonge, Eddie Mboyo Bola, and guitar player Lélé Nsundi. The Jacquis Boys soon became the Orchestre Zamis, perhaps after a conflict with their sponsor. And soon after the name change guitar player Souza Vangu and drummer Suké Ngonge joined the group. According to Souza Vangu, the Orchestre Zamis recorded two songs at the studio Mazadis in Limete and released one 45 rpm single. Like virtually all of the young musicians in Barumbu, the members of l'Orchestre Zamis gravitated around Papa Noel, the neighbourhood's musical patriarch (himself only in his 30s at the time).

Papa Noel lived at 22 Rue de Luvungi in the commune of Kinshasa and his Orchestre Bamboula was a training ground for several generations of young Barumbu musicians. Papa Noel, however, consistently had problems paying his musicians. Furthermore, he didn't have his own set of instruments; the band rehearsed on acoustic instruments and rented gear whenever they had a gig. In early 1973, after returning from a performance in Algeria, Papa Noel lost his entire group. He rebuilt the band with the neighbourhood teenagers who hung around Orchestre Bamboula rehearsals. Papa Noel brought in singers Bakolo Keta, Jeannot Botuli Ilonge, Frank Muzola Ngunga, guitar players Lélé Nsundi and Djo Morena, Vieux Kody on bass, and drummer Suké Ngonge. This lineup of the Orchestre Bamboula rehearsed for six months. Then, in late 1973, Papa Noel took the group into the studio.

Papa Noel brought the band to studio Vévé, which was owned by Kinshasa music impresario Verckys Kiamuangana and located on Rue Eala in the Kasa Vubu neighbourhood. Papa Noel paid upfront for the studio time to record four songs and the band knocked them off in one afternoon, with Vévé house engineer Kidiata M'Pole running the board. When Verckys came by the studio that evening he asked Kidiata, as he often did, to play him the tracks from the day's recording sessions. Kiamuangana heard Papa Noel's band and heard potential. He called in Denewadé, his production manager, to listen to the tracks. Denewadé knew the musicians well; they were a bunch of kids from the 'quartier' that he had known since they ran the streets barefoot in short pants. Verckys told Denewadé to find them and bring them back to the studio.

Denewadé made the rounds, starting with Franck Muzola Ngunga, who had sung with his band the Orchestre Mwaliko, a few years earlier. Once the musicians were in the studio Verckys asked if they had more unrecorded songs. When the musicians confirmed that they had more compositions Verckys told them to come back to the studio the following afternoon. They would run through their songs for him and if he liked what he heard he would record them. Most of the Bamboula musicians agreed but Franck Muzola Ngunga hesitated, not wanting to betray Papa Noel. Verckys turned the screws and told the musicians that without Muzola Ngunga he wasn't interested, it was the entire band or nothing. Muzola Ngunga gave in and the band returned to the studio the following day.

Meanwhile Papa Noel was scrambling to find the cash to release his master tapes: he had paid for the studio time but he still needed to pay for the recording engineer's time and the 'recording fee'. When he returned to the Maison Vévé the following afternoon he was shocked to find his band in the studio, running through the Orchestre Bamboula repertoire, under Verckys' attentive ear. Papa Noel's shock turned to anger, and he burst into the studio accusing Verckys of trying to steal his band. Papa Noel and Verckys faced off. Verckys challenged Papa Noel to show him the contractual agreement that kept the young musicians from recording for Vévé. Papa Noel left with his tapes but lost another lineup of the Orchestre Bamboula. (The Kiam musicians don't think Papa Noel ever released these tapes. Papa Noel doesn't remember).

Verckys was excited enough about his new group to give them his name; he called them the Orchestre Kiam. The founding lineup of the group was singers Frank Muzola Ngunga, Bakolo Keta, Jeannot Botuli Ilonge, Mboyo Bola Eddie, lead guitar players Guyno and Souza Vangu (Souza came into the fold a few months after the others), rhythm guitar players Lélé Nsundi and Djo Morena, bass player Vieux Kody and drummer Suké Ngonge.

Like all of the musicians in the Vévé system the young musicians of Kiam were salaried employees, under contract with the Maison Vévé, Verckys Kiamuangana's company. The musicians were paid twice a month, collecting their pay from the Vévé accounting office, also located in the compound on Eala. Maman Louise, the head of accounting, paid out their salaries, $15 on the fifteenth of the month and $35 at the end of the month. Each musician also received a signing bonus from the Maison Vévé. Drummer Suké Ngonge still remembers the new living room furniture set he received. Verckys also gave the group a full set of instruments. Compared with the irregular compensation they received from Papa Noel and the difficult working conditions of the Orchestre Bamboula, the young members of the Orchestre Kiam thought they had gotten the better of Verckys!

The musicians rehearsed three times a week at the compound on Eala and performed every weekend in the bars of Kasa Vubu and Mbinza (during their first year they performed most often at the Bar Roly, just a few doors down from the Maison Vévé). Verckys managed all the contracts with the bar owners and collected the earnings for all of the performances. A Maison Vévé paymaster accompanied the group to every performance, collecting the cash at the end of the evening and bringing the money back to Maman Louise. The Maison Vévé also collected all of the income from vinyl sales, both throughout the DRC and abroad (the Kiam catalog was massively popular in Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroun, and throughout West Africa.) The musicians did as the boss told them, performing where he sent them and going into the studio when he decided. At the height of the Maison Vévé, Verckys had four groups in his farm system, keeping salaries low and making massive income from the vinyl sales and performances of his groups, among the most popular of their generation throughout much of sub-Saharan African.

Verckys brought his young group back into the studio in 1974 to record their first singles. Their first 45 featured Mayika, a song composed by chef d'orchestre Franck Muzola Ngunga, with Ya Ngambo an Eddie Mboyo Bola composition, on the B-side. Kiam's second single featured compositions by the two other singers; Nina, a Bakolo Keta composition on the A-side, featuring the solo guitar of Guyno, and on the B-side, Lola, a Jeannot Botuli Ilonge composition. Nina was the Orchestre Kiam's first hit. Bakolo Keta composed the song while he was still in the Jacquis Boys. All of the surviving members of the Orchestre Kiam agree that Bakolo Keta was the best songwriter in the band. Bass player Vieux Kody told me, 'Bakolo was really inspired, and it is thanks to him that Kiam took off, songs like Nina opened doors for us'.

The group's third single was another Bakolo Keta composition and another hit. Released in 1974, Baya-Baya is a ferocious track that features the first great Lélé Nsundi guitar breakdown in the band's catalogue (it is also the first track to include lead guitar player Souza Vangu). If Bakolo Keta was the group's most successful songwriter, the musical spirit of the group was Lélé Nsundi. He was the artistic director, responsible for working out the arrangements of all the new material and for leading the rehearsals. Whenever one of the singers wanted to introduce a new song he would bring it to Lélé. They would first tighten up the melody and chorus, and then Lélé would work up the arrangement before presenting the song to the rest of the group at rehearsal.

With Baya-Baya the Orchestre Kiam started to hit its stride and, with few exceptions, all of the group's subsequent recordings would be long tracks split over both sides of a 45 rpm single. These longer songs were built around Lélé Nsundi's guitar breaks, the hallmark of the Orchestre Kiam sound. Verckys knew that Lélé's guitar would keep dancers on the floor, the key to increasing sales throughout the continent. Listeners in Kenya and Burkina Faso couldn't understand the Lingala lyrics but they rocked to the guitar breaks just as much as their peers in Kinshasa did. The Orchestre Kiam stayed busy throughout 1974. Vévé released two more Kiam singles in the second half of the year; the Franck Muzola Ngunga song Kunde Kunde and Yoyowe, Lélé Nsundi's only credited composition with the band.

As so often happens in the atomizing Kinshasa music world, the success of the Orchestre Kiam soon attracted a competing producer and led to the group's first fracture. Mbuta Nsuka was a Kinshasa music fan who owned a gas station that generated enough profit for him to get into the music business, producing singles under his label, Mabele productions. In early 1975, he approached the musicians of Orchestre Kiam, most probably starting with singer Bakolo Keta, and asked them to record a nzong-nzing session for him, a quick recording to be released under a pseudonymous name. Mbuta Nsuka took the core of the Orchestre Kiam, singers Bakolo Keta, Boyo Mbola, and Jeannot Botuli Ilonge, guitar players Lélé Nsundi and Souza Vangu, bass player Ndolo Matthews and drummer Suké Ngonge into Johnny Bokelo's studio to record. The musicians cut four songs, Ah Ndugu, Bumba, Lambala, and a fourth I have yet to identify.

Mbuta Nsuka released the first single soon after it was recorded, under the name of the Orchestre Baya-Baya. Drummer Suké Ngonge remembers that, 'in those days you could record a song at 9am and the single would be getting radio airplay that same afternoon and be for sale the next morning'. Guitar player Souza Vangu remembered Verckys reaction, 'as soon as he heard the song he knew it was his band, the Orchestre Kiam. Verckys was furious and confronted us. He suspended all of the musicians who had participated in the recording. We were suspended for two months; no practice, no concerts, no recordings, no salary'.

Mbuta Nsuka took advantage of the suspensions and convinced the punished musicians to leave the Maison Vévé. He would fund the Orchestre Baya Baya, bring them back into the studio and put them back in front of dancing audiences. The suspended musicians agreed and thus was born the Orchestre Baya Baya. This massive defection left Verckys and Franck Muzola Ngunga with a personnel problem. The Orchestre Kiam was just starting to build their fan base and the core of the group had left; only Muzola Ngunga, bass player Vieux Kody and rhythm guitar player Djo Morena remained. Verckys told Muzola Ngunga to recruit new musicians; he was determined to keep 'his' band going.

Within a relatively short time (a month or two) the Orchestre Kiam had a new line-up. The vocal front line featured singers Germain Kanza, Adoly Bamweniko and Otis Mbuta, the guitar section was reinforced with soloists Adamo Lewis and Djuké, and rhythm guitar player Antoine Denewadé. After a few months of rehearsal Kiam was back in the studio. And by the end of 1975 they had two 45s on the market, a first release featuring two songs, Yanga Yanga, an Adoly Bamweniko composition and Kobonde La, the B-side, written by accompagnateur Denewadé. The second single was a Germain Kanza composition, Memi.

Meanwhile Bakolo Keta, Botuli Ilonge, Lélé Nsundi and the rest of Orchestre Baya Baya went on tour. According to Souza Vangu, the Orchestre Baya Baya released a total of three 45 rpm singles. To promote the new releases, Mabele productions set up a tour of Equateur province in early 1976. The tour ended in disaster, with the musicians stranded in Mbandaka. Soon after the group made it back to Kinshasa, Lélé Nsundi returned to the Orchestre Kiam. According to drummer Suké Ngonge, 'Verckys used to spoil Lélé, he would buy clothes for him. He really loved Lélé's guitar playing and was happy to have him back in his band'. Soon after Lélé returned to the fold, Bakolo Keta and Suké Ngonge also came home to the Orchestre Kiam. These departures precipitated the end of the Orchestre Baya Baya. Original Kiam singer Jeannot Botuli Ilonge retired from music and guitarist Souza Vangu started his own band, the Orchestre Mabatalai.

With their best songwriter and their most distinctive instrumentalist back in the band, the Orchestre Kiam started work on a new song. The song was a Franck Muzola Ngunga composition and it featured one of Lélé Nsundi's most memorable parts as well as a nice solo guitar sebene by Adamo Lewis. The song was Kamiki. It was released in 1976 and launched the most creative period in the band's short history. Kamiki was the Orchestre Kiam's biggest hit; it is a dancefloor killer that spread throughout the continent. Kamiki was soon followed by Masumu, another Muzola Ngunga composition. Kiam maintained their momentum in 1977, releasing a string of terrific compositions, Ifantu, a Bakolo Keta song, Bakule and Mbale a pair of compositions by lead guitar player Adamo M'fui Mane Lewis and two more Muzola Ngunga songs Ya Yo Na and Bamoto.

Around the time Kamiki was released Verckys sent the band on a tour of the Bas-Congo region. Kiam performed shows in Boma, Matadi, Mbanza Ngungu and Kisantu. This was the only tour the group ever did (the group never performed at Festac Lagos in 1977, as is it claimed in the sleeve notes to a Kenyan compilation of Kiam recordings). The only other show the group gave outside of Kinshasa was at the presidential palace in Gbadolite, where they performed for President Mobutu and his entourage. One indication of the group's popularity in 1977 is that they were invited to perform for the funeral ceremony for Marie-Antoinette Mobutu, Mobutu's first wife, known to all as Maman Sese. That same year the group also performed several times for political events at the Camp Tshatshi in Kinshasa.

The Orchestre Kiam reached their artistic peak in 1977. But just a year later the group would go through another shakeup, once again motivated by frustrations with the Maison Vévé's economic model. In August of 1978 the group recorded the song Exode with a guest artist, the Gabonese singer Mack Joss. Their encounter with Joss would mark the band. Frank Muzola Ngunga remembers that, 'Mack was the first person to explain to us what composition rights were, what royalties were, to explain to us how Vévé was making money off our backs'. This newfound awareness pushed Bakolo Keta to leave the Orchestre Kiam and the Maison Vévé once and for all. He was soon followed by Lélé Nsundi and Adoly Bamweniko.

Bakolo Keta, Adoly, Lélé, soloists Adamo Lewis and Djuké, as well as bass player Péné Shungu, started their own group, the Orchestre Bayike. The group stayed together only long enough to record four songs at the studio Renapec and to play a few gigs in and around Kinshasa. Within the year the Orchestre Bayike had dissolved; Adamo Lewis and Djuké returned to Kiam, Lélé Nsundi agreed to collaborate with Kiam but was no longer an official band member, and Bakolo Keta and Adoly Bamweniko moved on. To fill the gaps left by the departure of Bakolo Keta and Adoly, Muzola Ngunga recruited a new crop of younger musicians. He brought in singers Thylon Mwanda, Paul Lutumba Lomango, and Laza Landu (recruited from the Orchestre Bayike), and rhythm guitar player Dezai N'Accompa. Franck Muzola Ngunga's friend Adios Alemba also started to perform occasionally with the group, as an 'associate' member.

This final line up of the Orchestre Kiam soldiered on, trying to recreate the magic of 1977, but they were never able to rekindle the Kiam fire. The group continued to rehearse, perform throughout Kinshasa and to record, although less frequently than in the mid-1970s. By 1980 it seems that Verckys was putting more resources and energy into promoting the group in West and East Africa than in Zaire; one of the principal reasons that the Orchestre Kiam is today more fondly remembered in Nairobi or Dakar than in Kinshasa. In 1983, Verckys and Franck Muzola Ngunga decided to dissolve the Orchestre Kiam. The group's demise was brought on by a combination of declining record sales and discussions between Franck Muzola Ngunga and the singer Debaba.

Debaba was eager to start a new group, he had the talent to lead a frontline and had found a song-writing collaborator in Koffi Olomide, a young man who after having studied in France had returned to Kinshasa to push his way into the music business. Debaba, however, needed instruments and a sponsor. Franck Muzola Ngunga had a set of instruments, a roster of talented guitar players he could call on, and was eager for a new musical project that would return him to the spotlight. Debaba, Koffi and Franck, with the support of Verckys and the maison Vévé, decided to launch the Orchestre Historia. The first lineup of Orchestre Historia was built on the core Kiam backline, rhythm guitar player Lélé Nsundi was the chef d'orchestre and directeur artistique, lead guitar player Adamo Lewis was designated directeur de repetition, and Djo Moreno was brought in as accompagnateur. The vocal frontline of the new orchestra included Franck Muzola Ngunga and Laza Landu. The new group's debut single was released under the name Orchestre Historia do Kiam; a name which paid tribute to the group's musical roots in the Orchestre Kiam.

For many of the musicians who passed through the Orchestre Kiam, like singers Botuli Ilonge and Bakolo Keta, guitar players Djo Morena and Lélé Nsundi, their tenure in the band was the highpoint of their musical careers, in terms of both visibility and musical output. For other musicians, such as singers Adoly Bamweniko and Laza Landu, or guitar player Dezai N'Accompa, their years in Kiam were formative ones, a musical experience that launched their careers. Bandleader Franck Muzola Ngunga misses the camaraderie and the creative effervescence of the band. Bass player Vieux Kody told me how much he missed the passion that drove him and his Kiam band mates. In 2011, I spent an afternoon with Djo Morena and Germain Kanza in the Barumbu neighbourhood of Kinshasa, where most of the founding members of Kiam had met as school mates. Djo and Germain played some of the old Kiam songs for me. With wistful hearts they shared their pride in their past musical accomplishments, their disappointment in their youthful naiveté, and their disenchantment with the brutality and callousness of the Kinshasa music world.

(Kiam on stage circa 1974, Bakolo Keta in cap, Franck Muzola Ngunga on microphone. Photographer unknown)

BIOGRAPHIES OF ORCHESTRE KIAM MUSICIANS

FIRST GENERATION ORCHESTRE KIAM MUSICIANS (1973–5)

¶ Franck Muzola Ngunga – Singer and Chef D'Orchestre
¶ Bakolo Keta – Singer
¶ Jeannot Botuli Ilonge – Singer
¶ Eddie M'boyo Bola – Singer
¶ Lélé Nsundi – Rhythm Guitar and musical director
¶ Djo Morena – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Guyno – Lead Guitar
¶ Souza Vangu – Lead Guitar
¶ Vieux Kody (Nkodia vi Nkodia) – Bass player
¶ Ndolo Matthews – Bass player
¶ Suke Ngonge – Drums

Franck Muzola Ngunga, Singer, Chef D'Orchestre

Franck Muzola Ngunga was born in Matadi, Bas-Congo in 1961. He did his first five years of school in Matadi and came to Kinshasa in 1970. His father, a carpenter, settled the family in the Beau Marché neighbourhood of the commune of Barumbu — Franck was a neighbour to bass player Vieux Kody. Franck's first musical experience in Kinshasa was singing in the choir of his local catholic church, the paroisse Saint Paul (the same choir where Pépé Kallé and Likinga Redo sang). By the end of his first year in Kinshasa, Franck had joined his first musical group, Les Copains, a band that also included the singer Mopero, who would go on to fame with his Orchestre Shama Shama, and Manesi Baba Malula, who ended his musical career in Sydney, Australia. After a short spell with Les Copains, Franck joined L'Orchestre Mwaliko, a neighbourhood band led by Denewadé, who would become Vercky's production manager at the Maison Vévé.

Muzolo Ngunga's musical partnership with his future Kiam bandmates started in Papa Noel's Orchestre Bamboula. Franck was part of the cohort of young musicians from around Barumbu (he was only 12 years old at the time!) that Papa Noel recruited in 1973. Throughout the entire Orchestre Kiam saga Franck was one of only three musicians who stayed loyal to Verckys. When the plug was finally pulled on the Orchestre Kiam, Franck Muzolo Ngunga participated in the short-lived, Vévé-produced, Orchestre Historia. The band was together for two years (1983 &1984) and only released a handful of songs. With the breakup of the Orchestre Historia — see more details under Lélé Nsundi — Franck Muzola Ngunga retired from performing.

For the next twenty years he did a variety of jobs around Kinshasa, including managing a bar, working as an accountant, and running a music store for his friend Adios Alemba. During these years he spent a lot of time with Jossart N'yoka Longo and Zaiko Langa Langa but he didn't sing in front of an audience. In 2003, his friend Adios Alemba brought him to Europe and Franck started a new life in Europe. He trained as a stonemason and master painter and has supported his family with these skills for the last fifteen years. He lives in Compiegne with his wife and family, very proud that all of his children have been educated in France.

Bakolo Keta, Singer

Bakolo Keta was born in Equateur province but grew up in the Camp ONATRA neighbourhood of the commune of Barumbu, Kinshasa. (Germain Kanza, a childhood friend of Bakolo Keta's, was born in 1955. He calls Bakolo his 'petit frere'.) Bakolo grew up on the Rue de Kitega, just a few blocks away from where guitar player Djo Morena and singer Germain Kanza grew up. The three of them used to play in the streets together as kids. According to Otis Mbuta, Bakolo Keta went to the Saint Jean Bosco primary school in Barumbu. His first musical experience was with the Orchestre Jacquis, which became the Orchestre Zamis. He was one of the founding members of the band.

Considered by his friends and colleagues in Orchestre Kiam as the most talented songwriter in the group, Bakolo started composing while he was still in Orchestre Zamis; he brought several of these early compositions into the Orchestre Bamboula and Kiam. Frustrated by the terms of the business arrangement with Verckys Kiamuangana, Bakolo led two waves of defection from Kiam; the first in 1975 to create the Orchestre Baya Baya and a second in 1978, when he walked away, definitively, from the Orchestre Kiam. After Kiam, Bakolo tried, in vain, to get into Viva La Musica, composing a song for Papa Wemba. He eventually joined up with Defao, composing half a dozen songs for the Big Stars. The first discographic mention of his tenure with the Big Stars that I have found is from 1992, Bakolo is part of the lineup, with Adoly Bamweniko, on the CD Djems. That same year Bakolo participated in a session with Madilu Multisysteme and Malage de Lugendo, singing on the album Operation Quatre. Bakolo Keta is featured on the 1995 Defao CD Alvaro, which includes two of his songs, Simplice and Mujinga Mamie. And he also participated in Defao's 1996 release Amour Interdit, singing on three tracks. In 1997, he performed on two tracks on Defao's Sala Noki. Bakolo passed away in Kinshasa in 2000.

Djo Morena, Rhythm Guitar

Djo Morena was born on May 5, 1953 in Barumbu, Quartier Muzindo, Avenue Kigoma # 31. He grew up in Barumbu. Djo was taught to play the guitar by an older man in the neighbourhood. His name was Vieux Fely, but everyone called him Nzambele. Djo's first musical group was another Barumbu neighbourhood band called UTA Bella. He became their rhythm guitar player, or accompagnateur, in 1961. After UTA Bella he went to the Orchestre Super Tukina which featured singers Samba Mapangala, Celia Kelo and guitar player Gerry Dialungana. This group was only together for a year but recorded three 45s, including the track 'Satonge' by Samba Mapangala. These singles were produced by Muninga. Super Tukina fell apart in 1964. With the breakup of Super Tukina, Djo Morena played with various informal Barumbu groups.

In 1973, he too was part of the cohort recruited by Papa Noel. Djo Morena was one of the founding members of the Orchestre Kiam, and one of three musicians who stayed loyal to Verckys, staying with the Franck Muzola Ngunga wing of the group until the end of the Orchestre Kiam. When Verckys Kiamanguana and Franck Muzola Ngunga decided to dissolve Kiam and form the Orchestre Historia, Djo Morena became one of the new orchestra's accompagnateurs, playing alongside his former bandmates Lélé Nsundi and Adamo Lewis. Djo only stayed with the Historia for a year. When he left he started performing with l'Eglise Pentecote Gamma. Djo got married and had his first child while he was with Kiam. These were the best years of his life; the musicians in Kiam were, he remembers, 'brothers, discovering the world together'. Thirty years after the group ended, Djo Morena holds on to his memories. Cherishing the music they created together. When we met in 2011, Djo Morena no longer owned a guitar and hadn't played in a few years.

Suké Ngonge, Drummer

Suké Ngonge was born in Kinshasa on 25 February 1951. He was born and grew up in the commune of Kinshasa, in the Camp ONATRA (the neighbourhood spreads across the Communes of Barumbu and Kinshasa). He started to learn the drums in 1969. His first teacher was the drum legend Seskain Molenga. Suké studied with Seskain for two years. His first group was the Orchestra Fleurice a band that included Dona Mobeti and Thierry Mantuika; Mopero Wa Maloba was the chef d'orchestre. They were a student band that played matinée concerts from 3:00-6:00 p.m. Suké Ngonge was in the Orchestre Fleurice from 1969-1971. His next gig was a nzong-nzing session with a group called the Orchestre Fakir. In 1972, he finished his studies at St. Raphael, a catholic school. His next musical experience was with the Orchestre Zamis, the incubator for most of the core members of the Orchestre Kiam. He was also a member of the cohort that was recruited by Papa Noel in 1973.

Suké left the Orchestre Kiam in early 1976, but stayed in the Maison Vévé, becoming the drummer for the Orchestre Vévé. He didn't stay long very long with the band. Tired of working for Kiamuangana, he jumped ship in November 1976, when he had the opportunity to join Franco's TPOK Jazz. When he arrived in the OK Jazz there were 35 musicians in the orchestra, two or three musicians in each chair. He entered the group, without auditioning, when another drummer fell ill. (The other drummer in the TPOK Jazz during his tenure was Pajos Nanzele.) Suké spent two years with TPOK Jazz, participating in the recording session that featured the Ntesa Dalienst song 'Radio Trottoir'. He travelled with the TPOK Jazz to Cote D'Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. In 1977, he was part of a group of OK Jazz musicians who participated in a nzong-nzing session, recording under the name of Orchestre Mamaki, with Youlou Mabiala, Mayaula Mayoni and Josky Kiambakuta — this session yielded the big Mayaula hit 'Bombanda Compliquée'.

Franco was furious that the musicians had recorded the nzong-nzing and had Suké fired, along with percussionist Vieux de Paul. He then played with the Orchestre Le Best, the 'cover' band led by Jean-Marie Makutukala that performed at the Hotel Intercontinental. This gig led to a three year stint with the house band at the Hotel Ivoire, the most prestigious hotel in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire (and in all of Francophone West Africa). Since coming back from Abidjan (in the late 1980s?), he is a drummer for hire. Today he makes his living as a session drummer and plays regularly with the Orchestre Cosa Nostra, a cover band. The night I sat down with him in Kinshasa for a drink he was on his way to a gig with Baby Ndombe.

Vieux Kody, Bass player

Vieux Kody was born on February 9, 1951 in Kinshasa at the Hopital Mama Yeyo. He grew up in the commune de Barumbu, quartier Beau-marché. He started music playing around Barumbu in different pickup groups with Franck Muzola Ngunga. When Papa Noel started recruiting young musicians, Franck Muzola Ngunga convinced him to hire Vieux Kody to play bass. Vieux Kody stayed with the Orchestre Kiam from the group's first recordings in 1974 through to the end in 1983. He was offered the bass chair in Orchestre Historia but he declined, after Kiam he was disillusioned with the music business. He missed the camaraderie and spirit of the early days of the Orchestre Kiam. He soon got a job working in aluminium windows and was sent to Gbadolite, in the north-eastern part of the country, just south of the Ubangi River and the border with the Central African Republic. He spent 9 years there. Today he lives in Mbandaka where he has his own construction business. He continues to play with church choirs and to mentor younger musicians.

Jeannot Botuli Ilonge, Singer

Jeannot Botuli Ilonge also grew up in the Camp ONATRA neighbourhood. He was, with Bakolo Keta, one of the founding members of the Orchestre Zamis. He was also part of the cohort of Barumbu musicians that Papa Noel brought into the Orchestre Bamboula in 1973. Botuli Ilonge was one of the three singers of the first line-up of the Orchestre Kiam and he was also part of the group that participated in the Mabele productions nzong-nzing sessions that led to the first split in the Orchestre Kiam. He along with his childhood friend Bakolo Keta tried to make a go of the Orchestre Baya Baya. When this group fell apart, Botuli Ilonge left music. Bass player Vieux Kody and singer Adios Alemba remember that he went into business, selling goods between Kinshasa and the Bas-Congo. As of 2011, his former bandmates thought he was still alive but no one knew how to get in touch with him.

Souza Vangu, Lead guitar player (soloist)

Souza Vangu was Born Jacques Bazizila in 1950 in Kinshasa, in the commune of Ngaliema. He started music in 1965 joining the Jacquis Boys the band from the commune of Barumbu that was started by singers Bakolo Keta and Jeannot Botuli Ilonge. This group became the Orchestra Zamis, and according to Souza, they stayed together from 1969 to 1972. When most of the Orchestre Zamis were recruited by Papa Noel, Souza did not make the cut, presumably because Papa Noel didn't need a backup soloist. Souza was, however, part of the first line up of the Orchestre Kiam. He joined the group soon after the release of their first single.

Souza was also part of the cohort that left Kiam to record and perform as the Orchestre Baya Baya. When Baya Baya fell apart, and Bakolo Keta and Lélé Nsundi returned to the Orchestre Kiam, Souza went his own way. He started the Orchestre Mabatalai and led the group until 1978, producing some singles with Mabele productions. The Orchestre Mabatalai also featured the singers Malonga Hubert and Elba Kuluma (a singer from Bana OK Paris). The band was successful enough to get a contract to perform in Abidjan. The band moved to Cote D'Ivoire but Souza decided to remain in Kinshasa.

Souza's next move was to cross the Malebo pool and try his luck in Brazzaville. It was there that he formed the Orchestre Kamikaze with the great singer Youlou Mabiala. And this group was his musical home for much of his remaining career. Souza stayed with the Orchestre Kamikaze from 1981 to 1997. After Orchestre Kamikaze he joined the Orchestre Bana Poto Poto, earning the title of 'best soloist of 2003' for his playing on 'Matiti Mabé'. I spoke at length with Souza Vangu in early 2011. A little over a year later, on July 18, 2012, he passed away after a heart attack, leaving behind a widow and four children.

Guyno, Lead Guitar

None of the musicians I spoke with could tell me anything about Guyno. I think it can be assumed from this fact that he did not grow up in the Barumbu neighbourhood with the rest of the Orchestre Kiam musicians. The only lead I have is that at some point Guyno left Kinshasa and moved to France, where he now possibly lives in Paris.

Eddie Mboyo Bolo, Singer

Close to forty years after the creation of the Orchestre Kiam, none of his former bandmates could remember much about Mboyo Bolo. Bassist Vieux Kody thought that he had moved to the Central African Republic and lives in Bangui.

SECOND LINE UP OF THE ORCHESTRE KIAM (1975–7)

1975–6
¶ Franck Muzola Ngunga – Singer and band leader
¶ Germain Kanza – Singer
¶ Adoly Bamweniko – Singer
¶ Otis Mbuta – Singer
¶ Solola Sol Sol - Singer
¶ Djo Morena – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Antoine Denewadé – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Adamo M'fui Mane Lewis – Lead Guitar
¶ Djuké – Lead Guitar
¶ Vieux Kody – Bass Guitar
¶ Shungu Pania – Bass Guitar
¶ Suké Ngonge — Drums

1976–7

¶ Lélé Nsundi – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Bakolo Keta – Vocals
¶ Munkala Bebidad - Vocals
¶ Samy Lay – Drums

Lélé and Bakolo Keta both returned to Kiam after the breakup of Orchestre Baya Baya. There was a certain amount of overlap in guitar players and vocalists during the period 1975– 7. I don't know how long rhythm guitar player Antoine Denewadé stayed with the group.

Germain Kanza, Singer

Germain Kanza was born in Kinshasa in 1955 in the commune of Barumbu and has lived there his entire life. He got his start in a neighbourhood orchestra, le Fiesta Maxi, and soon moved on to the Orchestre Sensationnel. He knew several of the Kiam musicians as kids, playing with them in the streets of the 'quartier', in particular Bakolo Keta and Djo Morena. He was brought into the Orchestre Kiam in 1975 by Franck Muzola Ngunga. He left the group two years later (1977). From Kiam, Germain went to Mavuela Somo's Orchestre Yoka Lokole, and stayed with the band for several years. He was then, briefly, in Zaiko Langa Langa before moving on to Grand Zaiko Wa Wa with Pepe Felly Manuaku Waku. From Grand Zaiko Wa Wa he moved on to the Choc Stars and was part of the line-up that included Carlyto, Debaba, Petit Prince and Djunana. He stayed quite a few years with Choc Stars and finally left them for the Empire Bakuba. He has been with the Empire Bakuba since the 1980s.

Adoly Bamweniko, Singer

Adoly was born in 1953 in Makete, at 140 rue Nkongolo, commune of Kinshasa. He made his singing debut with the group Le Tourbillon in 1971; the group was led by a 'vieux' who was also an artistic director at Philips. A year later he left the Tourbillon and joined the Orchestre Mona before going to the Orchestre Nsele-Nsele, the youth squad of the Orchestre Sosoliso. In 1971 this group participated in a contest organized by Colgate toothpaste on the Place de la Revolution. The group won first prize and took home a set of instruments. Adoly took home the trophy for best singer.

He joined the Orchestre Kiam in 1975. It was Denewadé, the production manager of the Maison Vévé, who came to get him when Bakolo Keta, Botuli Ilonge and Mboyo Bola left Kiam and Verckys needed singers. Soon after joining the group Adoly recorded Yanga Yanga, his first composition. He would also compose Moni Afinda, one of Kiam's greatest tracks. Adoly left the Orchestre Kiam in late 1978/early 1979, retiring from music for the next five years. He returned to the scene in 1983 when Bozi Boziana, Ben Nyamabo, Defao, and Roxy Tshimpaka recruited him for the first line-up of the Choc Stars.

In 1984, Adoly was supposed to tour Europe with the Choc Stars but he was arrested at N'djili airport with cannabis in his luggage. He did five months in jail. He had a wife and four children at the time. When I spoke with him, in 2011, he remained convinced that he was set up by one of his Choc Stars band mates. During his incarceration his wife left him and his youngest child passed away. Twenty-seven years later Adoly was still bitter about his prison sentence.

In 1986, Adoly was part of Bozi Boziana's first Anti-Choc line-up, but it didn't work out and he soon left the group. He was out of work for the next four years before joining the Big Stars with Defao and Djo Poster. This was the group with which, starting in 1993, he had the most success. In 1994, the Big Stars performed in Angola and toured Europe. Adoly did not return to DRCongo. For much of 1994 he shuttled between Brussels and Paris and finished the year in the United Kingdom. He has lived in the UK ever since. In 2003 he had a stroke and almost lost his sight, he continues to have chronic health problems.

Otis Mbuta, Singer

Otis Mbuta was born on 6 January 1953 and grew up in Barumbu. He started singing at l'eglise St. Paul in the commune of Barumbu at the age of 14/15; this was the same church where Pépé Kallé, Likinga Redo, and Franck Muzola Ngunga sang as choirboys. Otis came from a strict family that didn't want him to become a musician. To please his parents he studied accounting, but he couldn't keep away from music. He started his career with the Orchestre Minzoto before joining Kiam in 1975.

Otis stayed with the band for two years before joining, in 1977, the second exodus from Kiam. Immediately after leaving Kiam he auditioned for Manuaku Waku, who briefly brought him into Zaiko Langa Langa. Otis followed Manuaku, in 1980, when the guitar player left Zaiko and started the Orchestre Grand Zaiko Wa Wa. That same year Otis and Manuaku had a hit with the song 'Revelation', which featured the vocals of Mbuta Mashakado, Evoloko Joker and Bozi Boziana. Otis stayed with Grand Zaiko Wa Wa until the orchestra left for France in 1989. At the end of this tour Manuaku went to Lausanne, Switzerland and the rest of the group stayed in Paris. This line-up of Grand Zaiko Wa Wa included Otis, Nzenze Mokengo, Niawu, Ada Muangisa, Egide (deceased in DRC), Djo Poster (deceased in DRC), Djeffard Lukombo (in Atlanta), Shimita (in California), and Delvis Salsero. After Grand Zaiko Wa Wa, Otis joined Diblo Dibala and Aurlus Mabele and their Paris-based group Loketo, the group that spread Soukous throughout the Afro-Atlantic world. Otis also recorded a CD with Diblo's group Matchatcha.

Adamo M'fui Mane Lewis, Solo Guitar (soloist)

I was not able to track down Adamo Lewis and none of the musicians I spoke with remembered anything about his life or career before he joined Kiam. Souza Vangu thinks that Adamo was also from Barumbu, the Camp ONATRA neighbourhood. Adamo Lewis joined Kiam in 1975 and stayed with the group until the end of their run. He composed two songs that the group recorded; 'Bakule' and 'M'bale', as well as playing the memorable solo guitar part on Kamiki. He was one of the Kiam musicians who went on to play in Orchestre Historia, along with Franck Muzola Ngunga and Lélé Nsundi. He spent a little over a year with Orchestre Historia before he was recruited by Mavuela Somo and moved to Gabon to play lead guitar with the Orchestre Akweza, the orchestra of the gendarmerie nationale du Gabon. After his spell with Akweza, Adamo joined forces with singer Yenga Yenga Jr., another Kinshasa musician who had moved to Libreville. Adamo Lewis moved back to Kinshasa four or five years ago.

Djuké, Guitar Solo (Soloist)

The only thing I know about Djuké is that he was the solo guitar player for the Orchestre Sosoliso before joining the Orchestre Kiam. Adoly Bamweniko thinks he joined the Orchestre Kiam in 1976. Germain Kanza thinks he has passed away.

Solola Sol Sol, Singer

Solola Sol Sol came to the Orchestre Kiam from the Orchestre Wondo Stock, a group that had a brief streak of popularity in the mid-1970s. (There was also a popular dance step invented by Zaiko Langa Langa in the mid-1970s called the Wondo Stock. I don't know if there is any relationship between the dance and the group). Solola Sol Sol didn't have the greatest voice and never recorded with the group. He was brought in because he was a good dancer and performer. He was later associated with Lita Bembo.

Munkala Bebidad, Singer

Munkala Bebidad was a singer from Brazzaville. He was a member of the Orchestra Bamboula line-up that included most of the original Kiam members. Bebidad specialized in covers of Cuban and Latin songs. He was only briefly a member of Kiam, performing with the group and recording two songs 'Yule' and 'Niamaraley'. He left Kiam soon after this 45 rpm single was released in 1976 and returned to Brazzaville.

Shungu Pania, Bass guitar

Shungu Pania was brought into the Orchestre Kiam to replace bass player Ndolo Matthews who left to join the Orchestre Baya Baya. He stayed with Kiam through 1978. He composed two songs that Kiam recorded, 'Azangai', released in 1976, and 'Maketa', released in 1977. He was one of the musicians who left Kiam to form the Orchestre Bayike. He passed away in the late seventies.

Samy Lay, Drummer

Samy is a drummer from Bas-Congo that the Orchestre Kiam first heard performing in Matadi with the group Comet Mambo. When Suké Ngongé left the Orchestre Kiam, Samy was hired to fill the drum chair. After his tenure with the Orchestre Kiam he moved onto Empire Bakuba and from there moved on to South Africa.

THIRD AND FINAL LINE-UP OF THE ORCHESTRE KIAM (1978, 1979–82)

¶ Franck Muzola Ngunga – Singer, band leader
¶ Thylon Mwanda – Singer
¶ Paul Lutumba Lomango – Singer
¶ Laza Landu dit Lazaro – Singer
¶ Djo Morena – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Dezai N'Accompa – Rhythm Guitar
¶ Djuké – Solo Guitar
¶ Adamo M'fui Mane Lewis – Solo Guitar
¶ Samy Lay – drums
¶ Vechiko - drums
¶ Vieux Kody – Bass
¶ Adios Alemba – Associate Singer

Thylon Mwanda, Singer

Thylon Mwanda was born on January 25, 1956 in the commune of Kinshasa. Thylon grew up singing in the Protestant church. His musical talent was confirmed when he won his middle school music contest. While still in school he started singing with the Bana Kengue, a group that played 'le folklore' and was led by a neighbourhood musician that everyone called Pape Tony. Thylon's next musical move was encouraged by his friend singer Paul Lutumba Lomango who pushed Thylon to audition for the band he sang with, the Orchestre Mokano. Thylon made the cut and joined the Mokano frontline in 1973. He stayed with the band for three years during which the band recorded a few singles. In 1977 he left Makano and joined the Orchestre Kanako, a group led by Frere Fataki. His tenure in Orchestre Kanako was short-lived. In 1978, Adoly Bamweniko, who had overheard Thylon singing in the family courtyard with Paul Lutumba, pushed the two singers to try out for the Orchestre Kiam. The Kiam had gone through their second big split and the group needed a new vocal frontline. Thylon and Paul Lutumba made their way to the Kiam rehearsal space and sang for their shot at a gig with a 'big-time' band. Both singers passed the audition and filled the holes in the Kiam attack. Thylon spent a little over three years with Kiam.

Thylon left Kiam in 1981, using his experience with the band to launch his career as a journeyman ensemble singer. His first gig after Kiam was with Gerard Madiata's group, singing 'variété', Congolese and international hits past and present. During this period Thylon also participated in various nzong-nzing sessions, singing on some of the earliest Orchestre Kamikaze singles as well as on the Zaiko offshoot project, Les Casques Bleus. From Madiata's group Thylon moved to l'Orchestre Kossa Kossa, a Kinshasa institution that performed every weekend at Mr. Miezi's club 'La Suzanella Maison Blanche'. After several years with Kossa Kossa Thylon was recruited by the Orchestre The Best, a cover band led by Jean-Marie Makutukala, that performed at the Etoile, the bar on the ninth floor of Kinshasa's famous Hotel Intercontinental. This gig led to an offer to join the Orchestre Monze System, the house band at the hotel Nsekeleka in Gbadolite, Mobutu's hometown. Thylon moved his family to Gbadolite and spent a year (1987?) entertaining the hotel's guests. When that gig ran dry he returned to Kinshasa and back to steady work with the Orchestre The Best. Near the end of the decade he was encouraged by guitar player Beniko Popolipo to submit an application to Zaiko Langa Langa's management. Zaiko was going through another turbulent personnel change and needed some new singers. Thylon joined Zaiko in 1990. In 2005 he moved to Belgium, settling in Antwerp.

Paul Lutumba Lomango, Singer

Paul Lutumba Lomango was born in 1954 in Boma, Bas Congo and moved to Kinshasa in the early 1970s. He started his musical career while studying dramatic arts in Kinshasa. His first group was the Orchestre Mokano. In 1978 he auditioned, along with his friend Thylon Mwanda, for Kiam. Paul Lutumba spent three years with the group. In 1981 he recorded the composition Fiya with Kiam. By 1982 he had moved to Pointe-Noire, the main port city in the neighbouring Republic of the Congo. He spent 10 years there performing with the Orchestre G.O. Momekano. At some point, probably in the early 1990s, he moved from the Republic of Congo to Kenya. In Kenya he recorded at least half a dozen tracks with the Orchestre A.B. Music. Paul Lutumba Lomango still lives in Kenya.

Adios Alemba, Singer

Adios was born on 6 June 1958 in Kinshasa, Kasa-vubu. He is another 'Kinois de naissance'. He grew up in Kinshasa, and studied in Gombe. He got his start in music with the Orchestre Kiam in 1978. He lived four houses down from the Maison Vévé on Eala (40 rue Eala). In 1978 he left Kiam and joined Grand Zaiko Wa Wa with Manuaku Waku; the line-up that also featured Debaba and Otis Mbuta. After his tenure with Grand Zaiko Wa Wa, Adios Alemba got into music production starting his company Gillette D'Or, located at Binza #2 in Kinshasa. He would rent different studios in Kinshasa (Vévé studios, Renapac, Studio Minzoto or Studio Bokelo) and organize recording sessions. He was the producer of one of the classic recordings of this era, the album 'Bilombe Bakutani' by the Trio N'yo Bi We. This album was recorded at the studio Renapec and featured N'Yoka Longo, Bimi Ombale and Papa Wemba on vocals, with the killer back line of Oncle Bapuis on bass, Meridjo on drums, Beniko Popolipo on lead guitar and Lélé Nsundi on rhythm guitar. This session features Lomami, one of Papa Wemba's lesser known masterpieces. Adios participated in a few nzong-nzing sessions with Zaiko Langa Langa during the great Zekete Zekete 2eme-episode era, recording the hit Mille Sourires. He later became the president of the Société Nationale des Editeurs et Auteurs-Compositeurs (Soneca), the national performing rights society.

Laza Landu dit Lazaro, Singer

Laza Landu was born in 1958 in the commune of Kinshasa. He started singing in the church choir at the Eglise St. Pierre. He joined his first band, the Orchestre Macaramba, a neighbourhood band, in 1977. Soon thereafter, most probably in early 1978, guitar player Adamo Lewis saw Laza perform with the Orchestre Macaramba and asked him to join the Orchestre Bayike, a group started by a breakaway faction of the Orchestre Kiam led by Bakolo Keta. Laza spent only a year with the Orchestre Bayike before being asked by Franck Muzola Ngunga to join the Orchestre Kiam. In 1979, Laza became one of Kiam's frontline singers. Laza stayed with Kiam through the group's final years, eventually following Franck Muzola Ngunga into Orchestre Historia. During his tenure with Kiam, Laza participated in the recording of just under a dozen Kiam songs, included two of his compositions Wateko and Joli Divers recorded in the early 1980s (I have found no discographic trace of these two songs). Laza's three years with Kiam were the most stable of his artistic career. His short tenure in Orchestre Historia was the beginning of a peripatetic decade. From Historia, Laza moved over to the Choc Stars, where he stayed less than a year, leaving the group after a disagreement over a disciplinary measure. His next stop was Tabu Ley Rochereau's Orchestre Afrisa. The highlight of Landu's brief tenure in Afrisa was a year end (1984) performance for Mobutu and his guests at the presidential palace in Gbadolite. Lazaro left both Afrisa and Zaire in early 1986.

He travelled to Luanda, Angola where he became the leader of the Orchestre Afro-Musica, a group that performed Congolese Rumba classics as well as popular Angolan songs. Lazaro spent close to three years in Angola. In 1989, he moved to the United Kingdom, settling in London, where he has lived since. In his early years in the UK Lazaro performed with other Zaïrois musicians living in the United Kingdom, most notably with Baboma, a London based band. In 1993 the group recorded Laza's song Santa Mina, a lovely rumba featuring the guitar of Fiston Lusambo. Lazaro continues to compose but hasn't performed for decades. One of his songs has recently been recorded by Orny Gola, a London based singer.

Dezai N'accompa, Rhythm Guitar

Dezai N'accompa was born Mbaya Mpungi Dezai in Kinshasa but grew up in the Bas-Congo region, his father was a policeman, and served throughout the country. At Lukula, a small town in the Bas-Congo famous for its large cement factory, Dezai started to play guitar. His first group was Orchestre Festival des Abeilles in Matadi. Soki Dianzenza, on tour in the region, heard Dezai play with this group and hired him for a tour of the Bas-Congo with his group the Bella-Mambo Renové — this was probably in 1975-76. Dezai moved to Kinshasa at the end of the tour and continued to perform with the band. In 1980 his friend Laza Landu encouraged him to audition for Kiam as Franck Muzola Ngunga was looking for an accompagnateur to replace guitar player Lélé Nsundi. Dezai was recruited and spent the next three years with the group.

When Verckys and Franck Muzola Ngunga disbanded the Orchestre Kiam in 1983 to form Historia, Dezai moved over to the Orchestre Kossa Kossa, once again replacing Lélé Nsundi. It was in this group that Dezai learned to play the emerging style of Congolese guitar, to play with a pick instead of with his fingers. After three years with Kossa Kossa he joined Viva la Musica. Soon after he joined, Papa Wemba took the band on a European tour but Dezai did not make the trip. He remained in Kinshasa and participated in the Sai-Sai and Extra-Large albums. He came to France in 1998 where he continued to work, on and off, with Papa Wemba. In 2013, he came out with Sang Bleu, his first solo album. He continues to do nzong-nzing sessions with musicians from the Viva la Musica galaxy in France — artists like Fafa de Molokai and Djuna Djunana.

Vechiko, Drummer

Vechiko was also known as Papa Mutombo. He went on to become famous in Congolese theatre. He has passed away.

LÉLÉ NSUNDI: Un Homme Mystique

All of his former band mates agree that Lélé Nsundi was the engine of the Orchestre Kiam. He was the musical genius who gave the group its distinctive flair, who set Kiam apart from the other bands of their era. In 1996 I was living in Dakar, Senegal, in an apartment overlooking a market. Just below my window was the stall of Assane Gueye. His small workspace was crammed floor to ceiling with 45s and LPs. He didn't sell the vinyl but sold cassette compilations culled from his collection. From morning to evening Assane would dub vinyl to cassette. His compilations were the soundtrack to my year in that apartment. I still remember the morning I first heard him play Kamiki. When I heard the B-side guitar break I interrupted my breakfast and hurried down the stairs to ask what the track was. Assane dubbed the single for me and thus began an obsession.

In subsequent years I have heard Kamiki blasting from roadside bars in Ouagadougou and dancefloors in Abidjan, talked with friends who remembered dancing to the track in Northern Cameroun and in Western Kenya. If the track has spread so far I am convinced it is because of Lélé Nsundi's guitar. Verckys Kiamuangana could recognize talent and he knew that Lélé's guitar was special. In spite of the success of Kamiki and the rest of the Kiam oeuvre, however, Lélé Nsundi has not entered the pantheon of Congolese guitar greats, the hall of fame that includes Déchaud, Dr. Nico, Franco, Papa Noel, Michelino Mavatiku, Manuaku Waku, Roxy Tshimpaka, Beniko Popolipo, Bongo Wende, and so many others. His peers consider him one of the great Congolese guitar players but subsequent generations have forgotten him.

Thirty years after his passing there is much that remains foggy about Lélé's life and career. Many of the musicians who knew him describe him as mysterious or even mystical (un homme mystique). I talked with as many of his musical collaborators as I could to try and unravel the mystique.

Lélé Nsundi was born in the commune of Kinshasa into a family from the Bas-Congo. Both of his parents were BaYombe. Lélé was born, according to singer and childhood friend Germain Kanza, in 1954. His parents separated and Lélé grew up with his mother and grandmother in a parcelle at the intersection of the Avenues de Kabambare and Kasa-Vubu. His mother sold vegetables at the market and Lélé went to primary school at the école St. Jean Bosco.

According to his guitar teacher, Ditutala Matima (known as Didelo), Lélé first picked up the instrument when he was 11 or 12 years old. Didelo remembers Lélé coming around his house on Kalembe Lembe, just around the block from his mother's parcelle, asking Didelo to initiate him into the mysteries of the mi-composé tuning. When I spoke with Didelo in 2011, he proudly told me that his student had become a better guitar player than his master. Didelo spoke at length about Lélé's musical innovations, admiring his ability to weave Bayombe likembe (thumb-piano) parts into his guitar breaks. (Lélé, at some point, also studied solfege and the basics of music theory with Manuaku Waku.)

Lélé Nsundi joined his first band in 1969. l'Orchestre Zamis was a neighbourhood group led by singers Bakolo Keta and Botuli Ilonge. Lélé stayed with the group through 1973, when most of the band was recruited by Papa Noel to staff his Orchestre Bamboula. Papa Noel remembers Lélé as a talented guitar player who practiced obsessively. During his brief tenure in the Orchestre Bamboula he pushed Papa Noel to teach him the secrets of arranging songs. All of the musicians who played with him remember Lélé as both a master mi-composé player, steeped in the rhythms of the Congo, and a big fan of 'variété'. Lélé, in particular, loved Django Reinhardt and Cuban music.

In 1973, when Verckys Kiamuangana poached Papa Noel's musicians and baptized them the Orchestre Kiam, Lélé Nsundi was designated the group's artistic director. All of Kiam's compositions would be first brought to Lélé and he would work out the melody and a simple song structure with the singer. After nailing down the basic form of the song, Lélé would then flesh out an arrangement for the band. When he arrived for rehearsals he would give the other musicians their parts and walk them through the song.

Lélé Nsundi tried twice, in 1975 and 1977, to escape from the Orchestre Kiam, but both times he returned to the group. In 1975, he was part of the splinter faction that formed the Orchestre Baya Baya. But after releasing a few singles and a disastrous tour of Equateur province, Lélé abandoned the Orchestre Baya Baya and returned to Kiam. In 1977, he left Kiam again, this time for the Orchestre Bayike. This second adventure was even shorter than the first and Lélé soon returned to the Orchestre Kiam. Both times he was enthusiastically welcomed back by Verckys, who was, according to several Kiam members, Lélé's biggest fan.

When Léle finally left Kiam, in late 1978/early 1979 he indulged his love of 'variété' or covers, performing Congolese classics from different eras, Cuban standards, and French chansons with the Orchestre Kossa Kossa. The group played every weekend at 'La Suzanella Maison Blanche', a bar on l'Avenue de L'Université in the Yolo neighbourhood of Kinshasa run by a man named Miezi. (The Orchestre Kossa Kossa was born in 1975 from the ashes of the Orchestre Grand Maquisards. After five years in the Vévé system the Grand Maquisard's principal singer Ntesa Dalienst grew tired of working for Verckys and left the group. Anticipating that the Grand Maquisards were coming to the end of their run, guitar player Dizzy Mandjeku worked out a contract with Mr. Miezi and took most of the Grands Maquisards with him as the first line-up of the Orchestre Kossa Kossa. By the time Lélé joined the band Dizzy had moved on.) Lélé's tenure with Orchestre Kossa Kossa lasted for about three years, from 1980-1983.

When Verckys and Franck Muzola Ngunga started to put a new group together with the singers Debaba and Koffi Olomide, Lélé was their choice for artistic director. And in 1983 Lélé became part of the first line-up of the Orchestre Historia, a band that also included his former Kiam colleagues Adamo M'fui Mane Lewis on solo guitar and Djo Morena on rhythm. This line-up of the Orchestre Historia, however, did not last long. Historia bassist, Autry Nzanga, who grew up with Lélé, told me the story of how this first incarnation of the group came to an end.

After rehearsing for a year and recording a few singles, the Orchestre Historia decided to throw itself an official 'lancement', a ceremony to formally introduce the band to the public. Bralima, the brewer of the ever popular Primus beer, agreed to sponsor the event and was to provide the band with a truckload of beer. The Bralima driver was supposed to deliver the beer to the band's headquarters on Avenue de Kabambare but instead brought the beer to Koffi Olomide's house. Olomide seized the opportunity, sold all the beer, and used the proceeds to finance a trip to Europe and a recording session with his newly formed Orchestre Quartier Latin.

Soon after Koffi's shenanigans singer and bandleader Mavuela Somo hired both Lélé Nsundi and Adamo Lewis. Mavuela Somo, a founding memeber of Zaiko Langa Langa and the leader of the Orchestre Yoka Lokole, had moved to Libreville, Gabon, in the late 1970s. By the early 1980s Mavuela had a contract with the Orchestre Akweza, the orchestra of the gendarmerie nationale du Gabon. Lélé and Adamo Lewis followed Mavuela to Libreville, along with singer Yenga Yenga Jr.

Lélé Nsundi spent the last years of his life in Libreville. He lived by himself in a small house behind Libreville's central prison. His main gig during his Gabon years was with the Orchestra Akweza. Lélé was designated the artistic director and chef d'orchestre. The gendarmerie nationale du Gabon paid his rent and a monthly salary. The group performed every weekend at the mess des officiers de la gendarmerie (the officers club). According to Mavuela Somo, Lélé played on two of the three albums that he recorded in Kinshasa for the Gabonese market. (I know that Lélé is the rhythm guitar player on the album Affaire Mougoye but I haven't confirmed a second session. Lélé's distinctive guitar playing is one of the highlights of Affaire Mougoye.)

By 1986 Lélé had become ill and wasn't getting the medical treatment he needed. He passed away in late 1986 or early 1987 &#mdash; no one can quite remember exactly when. Mavuela Somo arranged to have his body brought back to Kinshasa and to have Lélé buried in the Cimetière de Kintambo. Lélé left a wife and child behind.

Guitar legend Maitre Beniko Popolipo, who first met Lélé in elementary school at the école primaire St. Jean Bosco, told me that Lélé was one of the best accompagnateurs he has played with. He remembers fondly their collaboration on the Trio N'Yo Bi We album, produced by Adios Alemba, and featuring N'Yoka Longo Jossart, Bimi Ombale, and Papa Wemba. Beniko told me that Manuaku Waku was also supposed to feature on the album but when he arrived in the studio and heard Lélé warming up he turned around and walked out.

LIST OF INTERVIEWS

1. FRANCK MUZOLA NGUNGA – Several phone interviews, (Compiegne, France) 2010, 2011 & 2018
2. DJO MORENA – Several interviews in Kinshasa, March 2011
3. VIEUX KODY – Phone interview, (Mbandaka, DRC) 2010
4. SOUZA VANGU – Phone interview, (Brazzaville, Republic of Congo) 2011
5. GERMAIN KANZA – Phone interview and interview in Kinshasa, 2011
6. SUKE NGONGE – Interview in Kinshasa, 2011
7. ADOLY BAMWENIKO – Phone interview, (United Kingdom) 2011
8. OTIS MBUTA – Phone interview, (France) 2010
9. ADIOS ALEMBA – Phone interview, (France) 2010
10. VERCKYS KIAMANGUANA – Phone interview, (Belgium) 2011
11. DEZAI N'ACCOMPA – Several phone interviews, (France) 2011 & 2018
12. MANUAKU WAKU PEPE FELLY – Phone interview, (DRC) 2010
13. MAVUELA SOMO – Phone interview, (Belgium) 2011
14. BENIKO POPOLIPO – Phone interview, (France) 2011
15. SEC BIDENS – Phone interview, (France) 2011
16. PAPA NOEL – Phone interview, (France) 2011
17. DITUTALA MATIMA dit DIDELO – Interview in Kinshasa, 2011
18. NZANGA VIRGILE dit AUTRY – Interview in Kinshasa, 2011
19. SITA MBELE, Phone interview, (Libreville, Gabon) 2017
20. LAZA LANDU dit LAZARO, Phone interview (United Kingdom) 2018
21. THYLON MWANDA, Phone interview (Belgium) 2018

ORCHESTRE KIAM DISCOGRAPHY


Artwork

Catalog Number

Song

Composer

Year

Compiled

VEVE VV 167/
African 90.764/
Editions Elengi (ELG4)
A. Mayika

B. Ya Ngambo

Franck Muzola Ngunga

Eddie Mboyo Bola

1974
VEVE 170/
African 90.822
A. Nina

B. Lola Jeannot

Bakolo Keta

Botuli Ilonge

1974
A-side on
African LP 360.062
VEVE 185/
African 90.862/
Tower (Ghana) CRS0763
Baya Baya 1&2 Bakolo Keta 1974African LP 360.062
MUSIC FROM ZAIRE VOL 6
(Soundpoint SOP044) part 2 only;
Orchestres Kamale et Kiam / Vévé Vol 2
RAS Rogers All Stars VOS 1003 1982
VEVE 186/
African 90.886
Kunde Kunde 1&2 Franck Muzola Ngunga 1974African LP 360.062
VEVE 196/
African 90.914
A. Muana Kiam

B. Lombe

Eddie Mboyo Bola

Jeannot Botuli Ilonge

1974African LP 360.062
VEVE 207 Yoyowe 1&2 Lele Nsundi 1974African LP 360.062
Sakumuna 12/
African 90.978
A. Yanga Yanga

B. Kobondela

Adoly Bamweniko

Denewadé

1975
Sakumuna 13/
African 90.979
Masumu 1&2 Franck Muzola Ngunga 1975
On L'Afrique danse avec Sakumuna
African 360.091 Paris, 1975
Voice of Zaire vol 1
RAS Rogers All Stars, Nigeria VOZ 1001
Sakumuna 15/
African 91.063
Memi 1&2 Kanza Bayone (Germain Kanza) 1975On L'Afrique danse avec Sakumuna
African 360.091 Paris, 1975
Voice of Zaire vol 1
Rogers All Stars, Nigeria VOZ1001, &
Eds VEVE – HIT PARADE VOLUME ONE
VVLP1001 Nairobi 1976
VEVE 222/
African 91.201
Azangai 1&2 Shungu 1976On Super Hits Vol 1
VVLP 1003 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
Sakumuna 25/
African 91.228
Kamiki 1&2 Franck Muzola Ngunga 1976
On L'Afrique danse avec Sakumuna
African 360.101 / 1976
Orchestres Kamale et Kiam / Vévé Vol 2
RAS Rogers All Stars VOS 1003 1982
& Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 2
Sonafric SAF50040 1977
mislabelled as "Bamo Kangi"
Sakumuna 26/
African 91.309
Moni Afinda 1&2 Adoly Bamweniko 1976
Orchestres Kamale et Kiam / Vévé Vol 2
RAS Rogers All Stars VOS 1003 1982
Sakumuna 27/
African 91.310
Makonda 1&2 Nkodia-vi-Nkodia (Vieux Kody)1976On Super Hits Vol 1
VVLP 1003 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
Sakumuna SN 35
Bilanga BIL12
Mbale 1&2 Mfui Mane (Adamo Lewis) 1976
On Super Hits Vol 1
VVLP 1003 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
& Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 2
Sonafric SAF50040 1977
& Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 8
Sonafric SAF50081 1978
Sakumuna 36/
African 91.351
A. Yule

B. Niamaraley

Munkala Bebidad1976On Super Hits Vol 1
VVLP 1003 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
VEVE 247/
African 91.539
Bamoto 1&2 Franck Muzola Ngunga 1977On Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 8
Sonafric SAF50081 1978
VEVE 248/
Sakumuna SN008/
African 91.540
Ifantu 1&2 Bakolo Keta 1977On Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 8
Sonafric SAF50081 1978
VEVE 248/
African 91.540
Maketa 1&2 Shungu Pania 1977On Les Grands Succes des Editions Vévé vol 8
Sonafric SAF50081 1978
Sakumuna SN 66/
African 91.582
Ya Yo Na 1&2 Franck Muzula Ngunga 1977
On Super Hits Vol 2
VVLP 1005 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
African 360.111 Bakule (VEVE 257)

Abeba

Exode
(a.k.a. Kwakile?)

M'fui Mane (Adamo Lewis)

Bakolo Keta

Mack Joss

1977

1977

1978(?)

Bakule & Exode also on
Super Hits Vol 2
VVLP 1005 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
Meta.M.M ?On Super Hits Vol 2
VVLP 1005 / 1977 / Nairobi issue
Pamuzo Franck Muzola Ngunga?
Mokili Adoly Bamweniko?
Kwakile Mack Joss?
Serrieux Franck Muzola Ngunga?
Fiya Adoly Bamweniko
or Paul Lutumba Lomango
?
Metatiti Adoly Bamweniko?
VEVE 264 ZavyNkodia-vi-Nkodia1984
PEA156 (Pathé Kenya)A. Sheka

B. Fanda Pe Okanisa

?
This discography was compiled by cross-referencing the following discographies:
Geocities Japan
Bolingo
Muzikifan
Discogs

Special thanks to Adam Kozie, Martin Sinnock, Alastair Johnston, David Noyes, John Beadle, Cheeku Bidani.

LÉLÉ NSUNDI DISCOGRAPHY (outside of Kiam and Baya Baya)

Le Trio N'Yo Bi We – Bilombe Bakutani. Lélé plays rhythm guitar with Beniko Popolipo the soloist. 1982, recorded in Kinshasa.

Mavuela Somo – Affaire Mougouye, recorded in Kinshasa and pressed in Gabon.

Possibly a second recording with Mavuela in Gabon.

Roy Langa – Sadrak, with the accompagnement of Yenga Yenga Junior and the Orchestre Zaichoc.

(early 1980s) – M'buku

¶ Recorded at Studio Minzoto, Kinshasa
¶ Chant: Roy Langa, Yenga Yenga, N'djo Mopla
¶ Bass: Bapius
¶ Drums: Petit Cachet, Cezolema
¶ Guitar Solo: Grand Niau (Roxy)
¶ Guitar Rhythmique: Lélé

Roy Langa – Pusakuna Ah Mama! (1984) nzong nzing session

¶ Vocals: Roy Langa, Yenga Yenga Junior
¶ Solo: Roxy
¶ Rhythm: Lele Nsundi, Petit Poisson Avedila
¶ Bassist : Oncle Bapius
¶ Drums : Otis Edjudju Mondhe
¶ Animation : Yenga Yenga Junior
¶ Artistic Direction : Oncle Bapius.

LYRICS

Label

Lingala

English

French

NINA

Composition de Bakolo Keta, 1974

Ah Nga Ah Nga Nakolela oh oh o!
Pasi ya boye namona te balobi nalekisa
mwana nga nabota oh oh
Po Nakoma moto ya mbongo, Deli yoka nde likambo
Dely Yoka Yoka (chorus voice)
(Two times)
Zemi ya sanza moko na poso misato
Na boma mobimba ya mwana na nga po
nazangi mosolo
Nga na lembi nde mokili oh…Nina
Nina oh oh oh Nina,
Nina ondimi liwa ya mwana natina?
Nina, tuna na kati ya motema, tuna mama
na yo ya leki abangi makambo oh oh o
Ngai na ko banga na bangi na bangi nde makambo
Na koka te nga na kolinga tobota,
tobokolo ye eh asilisa kelasi
Toboma mwana liwa ya somo
Tobebisa fruit ya bolingo pasi tomoni
Nina ondimi liwa ya mwana natina?
Nina, tuna na kati ya motema, tuna mama
na yo ya leki abangi makambo
Ngai na ko banga na bangi na bangi nde makambo
Na koka te nga na kolinga tobota
tobokolo ye eh asilisa kelasi
A bungi ngai yo (repeat)
GUITAR BREAK
Toboma mwana liwa ya somo tobebisa
fruit ya bolingo pasi tomoni
Nina ondimi liwa ya mwana natina?
Nina, tuna na kati ya motema tuna mama
na yo ya leki abangi makambo
Ngai na ko banga na bangi na bangi nde makambo
Na koka te nga na kolinga tobota
tobokolo ye eh asilisa kelasi
A bungi ngai yo (repeat)

NINA

Composed by Bakolo Keta, 1974

Ah, I am crying, I have never seen this kind of suffering
They told me to sacrifice the child that I brought into this world so that I could become wealthy
Deli listen to this story, Deli listen, listen
A woman that is 7 weeks pregnant and I
should kill my child because I don't have any money?
I am tired of this world, oh Nina,
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina why did you agree to sacrifice your child?
Nina, interrogate your conscience, interrogate your aunt, she is afraid of problems
Me I am scared, I am scared, I am scared of problems.
I can't do it, I wish we could have a child, that we could raise the child
And let the child finish its studies
We should sacrifice the child? We can't sacrifice the child, it's horrible.
We should destroy the fruit of our love, the fruit of our suffering?
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina why did you accept to sacrifice your child?
Nina, interrogate your conscience, interrogate your aunt, she is afraid of problems
Me I am scared, I am scared, I am scared of problems.
I can't do it, I wish we could have a child, that we could raise the child
And let the child finish its studies
He doesn't remember me anymore
He doesn't remember me anymore
(Repeats)
GUITAR BREAK
We should sacrifice the child? We can't sacrifice the child, it's horrible.
We should destroy the fruit of our love, the fruit of our suffering?
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina why did you accept to sacrifice your child?
Nina, interrogate your conscience, interrogate your aunt, she is afraid of problems
Me I am scared, I am scared, I am scared of problems.
I can't do it, I wish we could have a child, that we could raise the child
And let the child finish its studies
He doesn't remember me anymore
He doesn't remember me anymore
(Repeats)

NINA

Composition de Bakolo Keta, 1974

Ah Moi je pleure, je n'ai jamais vu cette souffrance
Ils m'ont dit de sacrifier l'enfant que j'ai mis au monde pour que je devienne riche
Deli écoute c'est affaire, Deli écoute, écoute
La grossesse d'un mois et trois semaines, que je tue mon enfant parce que je n'ai pas d'argent ?!
Moi je suis fatigué de ce monde, oh Nina,
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina pourquoi tu as accepté de sacrifier ton enfant?
Nina, interroge ta conscience, interroge ta petite maman, elle a peur de problèmes.
Moi j'ai peur, j'ai peur, j'ai peur des problèmes.
Je ne peux pas, je souhaite qu'on puisse faire un enfant, qu'on le fasse grandir
Jusqu'à finir ses études.
Qu'on sacrifie l'enfant ? On ne peut pas sacrifier l'enfant, c'est horrible.
Qu'on puisse détruire le fruit de notre amour, fruit de notre souffrance.
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina pourquoi tu as accepté de sacrifier ton enfant?
Nina, interroge ta conscience, interroge ta petite maman, elle a peur de problèmes.
Moi j'ai peur, j'ai peur, j'ai peur des problèmes.
Je ne peux pas, je souhaite qu'on puisse faire un enfant, qu'on le fasse grandir
Jusqu'à finir ses études.
Il ne se souvient plus de moi
Il ne se souvient plus de moi
(Répétition)
GUITAR BREAK
Qu'on sacrifie l'enfant? On ne peut pas sacrifier l'enfant, c'est horrible.
Qu'on puisse détruire le fruit de notre amour, fruit de notre souffrance.
Nina, oh oh oh, Nina pourquoi tu as accepté de sacrifier ton enfant?
Nina, interroge ta conscience, interroge ta petite maman, elle a peur de problèmes.
Moi j'ai peur, j'ai peur, j'ai peur des problèmes.
Je ne peux pas, je souhaite qu'on puisse faire un enfant, qu'on le fasse grandir
Jusqu'à finir ses études.
Il ne se souvient plus de moi (répétition)

MUANA KIAM

Composition de Eddie Mboyo Bola, 1974

Yokosaka ngai pitshou ya Kiam eh eh
Nzoka nde na motema omema nde
ngambo
Ndonazi Ndonazi,
Ndonazi boni osala nga boye
Omemi ngambo, omemi ngambo oh oh
mwana mama
Okosi nga ah ndonazi
nako funda epa ya papa, epa ya papa
Oh oh ndonazi
Okosi nga ah ndonazi
nako funda epa ya papa, epa ya papa
Oh oh ndonazi
GUITAR BREAK
Oh Souzi Vangu (cri)
Okosi nga ah ndonazi
nako funda epa ya papa, epa ya papa
Oh oh ndonazi
Suke Suke mokata envoyé (cri)
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
Na pesi na yo Kiamuangana
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
Na pesi na yo Denewadé
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
Na pesi na yo Canto
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
Na pesi na yo Kiamdomba
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
Na pesi na yo Kinene
Nzoto ya mwana moto ebebi, pitshou
nakolinga, nakolinga, nakolinga,
Na libala yo oh motema na pesi na yo,
(cris)
Eh Eh Eh Eh Makambo Eh, Les Affaires
Toyokanaki boye te, ya ofele ya ofele,
Bakolo Keta
Oh ya pamba ya pamba
Kakola
Omemi Ngambo (names of band members)

MUANA KIAM

Composed by Eddie Mboyo Bola, 1974

You are lying to me, Pitshou of Kiam
You are guilty in your heart
Ndonazi, Ndonazi
Ndonazi, why did you do me like that?
You are guilty, you are guilty, oh, the mother of my child
You cheated on me Ndonazi
I am going to go to your father's house and accuse you
Oh Ndonazi, you cheated on me, Oh Ndonazi
I am going to go to your father's house and accuse you
GUITAR BREAK
Oh Souzi Vangu (animation)
You cheated on me Ndonazi
I am going to go to your father's house and accuse you
Oh Ndonazi
Suké Suké mokata envoyé (animation)
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart
I give you my heart, Kiamuangana
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that
I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart,
Denewadé
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that
I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart,
I give you my heart, Canto
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart I give you my heart, Kiandomba
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart
I give you my heart, Kinene
I have lost myself Pitshou that I love, that I love, that I love
For our marriage, I give you my heart
I give you my heart
This is not what we agreed (animation)
It's free, It's free, Bakolo Keta
It's free, It's free
You are guilty, you are guilty.

MUANA KIAM

Composition de Eddie Mboyo Bola, 1974

Tu me mens Pitshou de Kiam
Hors dans ton coeur tu es coupable
Ndonazi, Ndonazi
Ndonazi, pourqoui tu m'as fait comme ç a?
Tu es coupable, tu es coupable, oh l'enfant de maman
Tu m'as trompé Ndonazi
Je vais t'accuser chez ton père, chez ton père
Oh Ndonazi, tu m'as trompé, Ndonazi
Je vais t'accuser chez ton père, chez ton père
Oh Ndonazi
GUITAR BREAK
Oh Souzi Vangu (cri)
Tu m'as trompé, Ndonazi je vais t'accuser
chez ton père, chez ton père
Oh Ndonazi
Suke Suke mokata envoyé (cri)
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur
Je te donne mon coeur Kiamuangana
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur Denewadé
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur
Je te donne mon coeur Canto
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur
Je te donne mon coeur Kiandomba
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur
Je te donne mon coeur Kinene
Je me suis perdu Pitshou que j'aime, que j'aime, que j'aime
Pour le marriage, je te donne mon coeur
Je te donne mon coeur
On ne s'est pas entendu comme ç a (cri)
C'est gratuit, c'est gratuit, Bakolo Keta
C'est gratuit, c'est gratuit
Tu es coupable, Tu es coupable

YANGA YANGA

Composition d'Adoly Bamweniko, 1975

Mbombo nga nabanzi yo sundoli eh
Mbombo nga na boyi yo changé eh
Mbombo nga na moni yo osiliki eh
Tala nga nakomi na soucis eh
Vraiment nga na tondi nazuwa oh oh oh
Zuwa eh zuwa mbombo (cri)
Zuwa (cri)
Mbombo nga nabanzi yo sundoli eh
Mbombo nga na boyi yo changé eh
Mbombo nga na moni yo osiliki eh
Tala nga nakomi na soucis eh
Vraiment nga na tondi nazuwa oh oh oh
Balobi mbombo oboyi nde libala
Ya bango tango bazuwa nani aloba
Na bebi na facon oyo to vivre
Yo mosika nga mosika
Na sengi libala ya bokoko
Na ndenge ya zairoise authentique
To sangisa ba famille kopo ya nsamba
tokomela
Li nisi I toko senga oh
Mbombo solo yo okeyi eh
Mbombo solo yo okeyi eh
Yo otiki nga na nani oh oh oh
Mama oh nga na yanga yanga
Mama tika kolela lela pamba oh
Mama oh nga na yanga yanga
Mama tika kolela lela pamba oh
(repeat)
GUITAR BREAK
Suke Suke Monganza envoyé (cri)
I ma oh, I ma oh, zone ebebi oh (cri)
Sondolo eh bilongi ya talo (cri)
Mama oh nga na yanga yanga
Mama tika kolela lela pamba oh
Mama oh nga na yanga yanga
Mama tika kolela lela pamba oh

YANGA YANGA

Composed by Adoly Bamweniko, 1975

Mbombo, I have the impression that you have left me
Mbombo, I don't want you to change
Mbombo, It is as if you are angry
Look at me, I have become worried
Really, I am very jealous
Jealous, Jealous Mbombo (animation)
Mbombo, I have the impression that you have left me
Mbombo, I don't want you to change
Mbombo, It is as if you are angry
Look at me, I have become worried
Really, I am very jealous
They say that you no longer want to get married
When they succeed who has the courage to say anything?
I am lost with this way of life
You have drifted away from me
I want the traditional marriage of an 'authentic' Zaïrois
Let's bring our two families together and
share some palm wine, some palm wine I ask for love
Mbombo, really, you have left
Mbombo, really, you have left
You have you left me with?
Oh Mama, have pity on me
Mama, stop crying all the time
Oh Mama, have pity on me
Oh Mama, have pity on me
Mama, stop crying all the time
Oh Mama, have pity on me
GUITAR BREAK
Mama, stop crying all the time
Oh Mama, have pity on me
Oh Mama, have pity on me
Mama, stop crying all the time

YANGA YANGA

Composition d'Adoly Bamweniko, 1975

Mbombo j'ai comme l'impression que tu m'as laisse
Mbombo je ne veux pas que tu changes
Mbombo c'est comme si tu es fâché
Regarde-moi, je suis devenu soucieux
Vraiment je suis très jaloux
Jaloux, jaloux Mbombo (cri)
Mbombo j'ai comme l'impression que tu m'as laisse
Mbombo je ne veux pas que tu changes
Mbombo c'est comme si tu es fâché
Regarde-moi, je suis devenu soucieux
Vraiment je suis très jaloux
Ils ont dit que tu ne veux plus le mariage
Lorsqu'ils réussissent qui osent dire?
Je me suis perdu par rapport à cette fa ç on de vivre
Tu t'es éloigné de moi
Je demande le mariage coutumier du modèle Zaïrois authentique
Qu'on réunit nos deux familles en
partageant ensemble le vin de palme, le vin de palme
Je demande l'amour
Mbombo vraiment tu es parti
Mbombo vraiment tu es parti
Tu m'as laissé avec qui?
Oh maman pitié pour moi
Maman arrête de pleurer à tout moment
Oh Maman pitié pour moi
Oh maman pitié pour moi
Maman arrête de pleurer à tout moment
Oh Maman pitié pour moi
GUITAR BREAK
Maman arrête de pleurer à tout moment
Oh Maman pitié pour moi
Oh maman pitié pour moi
Maman arrête de pleurer à tout moment

MEMI

Composition de Germain Kanza (Bayonne), 1975

Toli oyo na pesi na yo mama, ye ye ye eh
Ebongi yo obomba mweku, mokili
etonda ngo makambo oh
Natunaki nayebisi na yo di eh
Ye ye ye eh
Kinshasa Kinshasa ngo makambo mingi
eh
Balobi nga nakomi zoba, nakomi solo
zoba
Po tolingani na yo siza eh, yango nga na
bebi tati yo yo oh
GUITAR BREAK
Nakomi solo zoba
Po tolingani na yo siza eh, yango nga na
bebi tati yo yo oh
GUITAR BREAK
Mweku eh, oh mweku
Memi eh, oh memi ye ye eh
Motema na pesa na yo oh
Mama yo obatela chou oh
Banguna mosala se kobebisa
Bako bunga nunu likonzi ya nga na yo
Molema eh
Banguna mosala se kobebisa
Bako bunga nunu likonzi ya nga na yo
Molema eh
GUITAR BREAK
Tikela mwana mayi oh
Tikela mwana mayi oh
Tikela mwana mayi oh
GUITAR BREAK

MEMI

Composed by Germain Kanza (Bayonne), 1975

The advice that I am giving Mama you
have to guard it jealously
Mweku life is made up of lots of things
I asked and I am telling you
Kinshasa, Kinshasa full of problems
They are saying that I have lost my mind,
that I have become an imbecile
Because I loved Siza, this is why I am lost
GUITAR BREAK
I have become a real imbecile because of
my love for Siza, this is why I am lost
GUITAR BREAK
Mweku eh, Oh Mweku
Memi eh, Oh Memi eh ye
The love that I give you, hold on to it my darling
Jealous folks only want to destroy
They want to separate me from my heart
Jealous folks only want to destroy
They want to separate me from my heart
GUITAR BREAK
Leave some water for the child

MEMI

Composition de Germain Kanza (Bayonne), 1975

Le conseil que je te donne Mama il faut que tu le garde jalousement
Mweku la vie est faite de plein de choses
J'ai demandé et je te le dit
Kinshasa, Kinshasa plein de problèmes
Ils ont dit que je suis devenu bête, que je
suis devenu un vrai imbécile
Parce que j'ai aimé Siza, voilà pourquoi je me suis perdu
GUITAR BREAK
Je suis devenu un vrai imbécile parce que j'ai aimé Siza, voilà pourquoi je me suis perdu
GUITAR BREAK
Mweku eh, Oh Mweku
Memi eh, Oh Memi eh ye
L'amour que je te donne garde ca bien mon choux
Les jaloux ne sont là que pour détruire
Ils cherchent à me séparer de mon amour
Les jaloux ne sont là que pour détruire
Ils cherchent à me séparer de mon amour
GUITAR BREAK
Laisse de de l'eau pour l'enfant

KAMIKI

Composition de Franck Muzola Ngunga, 1976

Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Bakoko bayeba ka testament
Bakoko bayeba ka ngo mateya
Kamiki na sengi, totosa ngo baboti
Kamiki na sengi, totosa ngo baboti
Kamiki yeye, eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye, eh motema oh
Nayebi nionso, nasalaki mabe, kasi
nasengi olimbisa nga
Ma kwaleka yo yo, leka oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
GUITAR BREAK
Oh namo namo na monalise (cri)
Oh mama abota yo longonya (cri)
O matiti mazamba (cri)
Soki pona yo (cri)
Nako boya yote mama (cri)
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Nayebi nionso, nasalaki mabe
Kamiki na sengi yolimbisanga ah
Ma kwaleka yo yo leka oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Mikolo mikokende, basanza ekoleka
Bambula ekokende, liwa likozela
Kimbanseke, nzela ya moto nionso oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
Kamiki yeye eh motema oh
GUITAR BREAK
(animation)
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Oh Lele, Lele na lindanda (cri)
Iko maneno iko tapale (cri swahili)
Yo na mbanda eh , yo na mbanda,
bokokende loboko na litama eh
Yo na mbanda eh, yo na mbanda,
bokokende loboko na litama eh
Yo na mbanda eh , yo na mbanda,
bokokende loboko na litama eh
Yo na mbanda eh, yo na mbanda,
bokokende loboko na litama eh
GUITAR BREAK
I I, I I, I I, Ilanga mama eh lesa (repeat)

KAMIKI

Composed by Franck Muzola Ngunga, 1976

Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
Our grandparents knew what it means to commit
Our grandparents knew how to advise us
Kamiki I demand that we respect our parents (elders)
Kamiki I demand that we respect our parents (elders)
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
I know that I misbehaved
But I am asking for your forgiveness
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
GUITAR BREAK
Thank you to your mother you brought you into this world (animation)
The forest in the bush [la brousse]
(animation)
If it is for you I can't refuse you, Mama
(animation)
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
I know that I misbehaved
But I am asking for your forgiveness
The days go by, the months go by, the years pass
And love is waiting for us
All of our roads lead to the Kimbanseke cemetery
Kamiki my heart
Kamiki my heart
GUITAR BREAK
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Oh Lélé on guitar
There are always problems (animations)
It's complicated (animation)
You go out with my rival and I stay home with my head between my hands
You go out with my rival and I stay home with my head between my hands
You go out with my rival and I stay home with my head between my hands
You go out with my rival and I stay home with my head between my hands
GUITAR BREAK
EE, EE, EE, Maman eh lesa

KAMIKI

Composition de Franck Muzola Ngunga, 1976

Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Les grandparents savez ce que c'est le testament
Les grandparents savez conseiller
Kamiki je demande qu'on respecte les parents
Kamiki je demande qu'on respecte les parents
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Je sais que j'ai mal agi
Mais je te demande pardon
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
GUITAR BREAK
Merci à ta maman qui t'as mis au monde (cri)
La brousse de la foret (cri)
Si c'est pour toi je ne peux pas te refuser maman (cri)
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Je sais que j'ai mal agi
Mais je te demande pardon
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
Les jours passent, les mois passent, les années passent
Et l'amour nous attend
Le cimetière de Kimbanseke c'est le chemin de tout le monde
Kamiki mon coeur
Kamiki mon coeur
GUITAR BREAK
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Mamale eh eh eh Mamale eh
Oh Lélé a la guitare
Ce sont des problemes (cri)
C'est compliquée (cri)
Toi avec mon rival vous partez ensemble et moi je reste avec la main sur ma joue (head in my hands)
Toi avec mon rival vous partez ensemble et moi je reste avec la main sur ma joue (head in my hands)
Toi avec mon rival vous partez ensemble et moi je reste avec la main sur ma joue (head in my hands)
Toi avec mon rival vous partez ensemble et moi je reste avec la main sur ma joue (head in my hands)
GUITAR BREAK
II, II, II, Ilanga Maman eh lesa

IFANTU

Composed by Bakolo Keta, 1977

Ah Ah Ah nzale eh eh
Sukisa nga na kati ya esanga, nga
nazonga mboka te oh
(intro)
Yayi kele bana Kiamuangana (cri)
Tala moninga tozalaki na ye eh, oh oh oh
esika moko
banda bo mwana eh abala abota asala
vie na ye, oh oh oh
Tala nga nakomi lelo boye baseka nga
po nabotaka te oh nzambe
Bo mwana plaisir mingi, moluka oh oh
mawa
Nakufelaka kaka komela na telex
Oh lele yeye eh, nakotaka vis-à-vis
Nawelaka kaka kosomba bilamba ya
sortie
Bawela bazanga, bakende batonda la vie
te oh
Tika nabota angelu na nga
GUITAR BREAK
Na bomba mwana(cris)
Nasembelaki nzambe ya ngelesa, ngai
na keta oh po tobota ngai na ye
Oh oh oh soyez la bienvenue ma poupée
GUITAR BREAK
Tokutana na nganda shakara eh (cri)
Epoti eh tapotiko, azanga azanga mwana
eh
Koyimbiko oh l'hopitalo eziki moto
mawa eh eh
Ebale eh libonzali yoke
Tika oh nga nakanisa nalengela avenir
ya mwana oh
Kimobange oh mwana te oh, moluka oh
mawa
Nakufelaka kaka kobina manika, oh lele
ye ye nakotaka cinema
Bawela bazanga, bakende batonda la vie
te oh
Tika nabota angelu na nga
GUITAR BREAK
Mayele mayele mayele
Mayele mayele mayele
Yo pesaka nga sango ya Kiam eh
Oh Mangasa, Kiki na Putu nasengi
bopesa ah sango
Keta aboti mwana ye eh
Mayele mayele mayele
Mayele mayele mayele
Yo pesaka nga sango ya Kiam eh
Oh Oh Oh kisi lola eh
Opesa sango na mikili keta aboti ngo
mwana yoyo
Mayele mayele mayele
Mayele mayele mayele
Yo pesaka nga sango ya Kiam eh
GUITAR BREAK

IFANTU

Composed by Bakolo Keta, 1977

Ah Nzale eh eh eh
Leave me here in the middle of the bush; I don't want to return to the village
Here are the children of Kiamuangana,
3rd class, they have arrived and they are going to derail everything (animation)
Look at my girlfriend, we have been together since we were kids and she has gotten married,
She has had children, she is living her life
Look what I have become
I am mocked because I don't have any children
Oh Lord, a youth spent chasing too many pleasures is an unhappy adventure
I spent my youth drinking and at the telex
(meaning unclear)
I partied at the Vis-à-Vis, I wasted my time buying sharp clothes to show off
Those who are in a hurry don't get what they want, and those who live too fast are never satisfied in life
Let me have a child, as well, my own angel
GUITAR BREAK

Let me keep my child (animation)
I had prayed at the protestant church so that Keta and I could have a child
Oh you are welcome my little doll
GUITAR BREAK
Rendez-vous at the Bar Shakara
(animation)
Eh eh eh she doesn't have any children
Eh the maternity ward has caught fire, too bad for her
(These two lines are taken from children's songs that are sung in villages mocking childless women)
Let me think about the future of my child
Old age without children, the misfortune of a life of adventure
I wasted my time dancing at Manika, I spent my youth going to the movies
Those who are in a hurry don't get what they want, and those who live too fast are never satisfied in life
Let me have a child, as well, my own angel
GUITAR BREAK
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Don't forget to bring me the latest news of Kiam
I ask that Mangisa Kiki na Putu spreads the news that Keta has had a child
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Don't forget to bring me the latest news of Kiam
Spread the news far and wide that Keta has a child
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Don't forget to bring me the latest news of Kiam
Spread the news far and wide that Keta has a child

IFANTU

Composition de Bakolo Keta, 1977

Ah Nzale eh eh eh
Laisse-moi au milieu de la brousse, moi je
ne veux pas rentrer au village
Ca ce sont les enfants de Kiamanguana,
troisième classe, ils sont arrivés, ils vont tous dérailler (cri)
Regarde l'amie qui était ensemble avec moi depuis l'enfance elle s'est mariée,
Et elle a eu des enfants, elle a fait sa vie
Regarde-moi ce que je suis devenu
On se moque de moi parce que je n'ai pas eu d'enfants
Oh mon dieu, la jeunesse trop de plaisirs, c'est malheureux l'aventure
Je passais mon temps à boire et au télex,
Je fais l'ambiance au Vis-a-Vis, j'ai perdu
mon temps à acheter des habits pour faire la fête
Ceux qui sont trop pressés n'obtiennent pas, et ceux qui vont vite ne se rassasient pas de la vie
Laissez-moi avoir aussi mon enfant, mon ange
GUITAR BREAK
Que je garde mon enfant (cri)
J'avais prié a l'église protestante pour que
moi et Keta on puisse avoir un enfant
Oh soyez la bienvenue ma poupée
GUITAR BREAK
Rendez-vous au bistro Shakara (cri)
(Des chansons dans des comptes pour se moquer de ceux qui n'ont pas d'enfants)
Eh eh eh elle n'as pas d'enfants
Eh la maternité a pris feu, pitié pour elle.
Laisse-moi pensez à l'avenir de mon enfant
La vieillesse sans enfant, malheur à l'aventure
J'ai perdu mon temps à danser Manika,
j'ai passé mon temps au cinéma
Ceux qui sont trop pressés n'obtiennent pas, et ceux qui vont vite ne se rassasient pas de la vie
Laissez-moi avoir aussi mon enfant, mon ange a moi
GUITAR BREAK
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
N'oublie pas de me donner les nouvelles de Kiam
Je demande à Mangisa Kiki na Putu de donner la nouvelle que Keta a eu un enfant
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
N'oublie pas de me donner les nouvelles de Kiam
Donnez la nouvelle partout que Keta a eu un enfant
Mayele Mayele Mayele
Mayele Mayele Mayele
N'oublie pas de me donner les nouvelles de Kiam
Donnez la nouvelle partout que Keta a eu un enfant

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Special thanks to Martin Sinnock and Alastair Johnston (muzikifan.com) for sharing recordings and their love of Congolese music. They both provided valuable corrections, comments, proofreading, and additional insights to several drafts of this project. Special thanks also to Kiam obsessive Adam Kozie (northernthorns.com) who shared discographical information, pictures and recordings with me. His insights also provided several leads that fleshed out this oral history. Thank you to David Noyes, host of the long-running Ambiance Congo radio show on WRIR Richmond, Va. for sharing the Mavuela Somo Affaire Mougoye with me. Thank you to Fiston Jagger Itambala for the many hours he spent transcribing Kiam songs and translating the lyrics into French. Thank you to Fatuma Kalala who suffered through long-distance phone calls to DRC with me, translating my questions into Lingala and being so patient while I tried to put the pieces together. Thank you to my friend Timothee Donangmaye who was always willing to follow another Kiam lead around Kinshasa with me, including a desperate early Sunday morning lark to find Lélé Nsundi's guitar teacher that turned into the most memorable two hours of our trip: we were flying out of Kinshasa that afternoon and just the night before someone had given me vague directions to the city block where Didelo lived.

Finally, thanks to Winan Mignon who, way back in 2010, first put me in touch with Franck Muzola Ngunga. I am especially grateful to ALL of the musicians who so graciously shared their time and memories with me. I hope this brief text honours their passion and love for music, their courage to live creative lives despite always challenging circumstances.

Of course, all of the inaccuracies and mistakes in the text are mine. I still have a list of follow-up interviews that I would like to do to complete this project ... but, I first started working on this history eight years ago and I just need to get it out there! I hope that this text will find its way to fellow Congolese music obsessives who can help fill in the details that I have missed, correct my mistakes and flesh out this history of the Orchestre Kiam. Thank you.

Rabat, Morocco. 2018.

Matthew Lavoie wallahilezein[at]gmail[dot]com

Last Update: 1 April 2018

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

THIS WORK IS COPYRIGHT © 2018 BY MATTHEW LAVOIE & MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED, REPOSTED, QUOTED AT LENGTH OR EXCERPTED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.