Last Band Standing

26/10/17Congolese/Kenyan Orchestre Les Mangelepa Release New Album On Strut / Tour Poland, Germany & the Czech Republic

Blame it on the picture perfect weather, but in our honest opinion, pretty much everything about the long-standing Orchestre Les Mangelepa's live appearance at this year's Wassermusik X festival was on point, from the glorious open air location on the spacious terrace of Berlin's iconic Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW, or 'pregnant oyster' as the locals call the structure) to the leisurely performance by one of the oldest, all-time great East African big bands. Aka the "Last Band Standing", which just happens to be the fitting title of their recently released new studio album on Strut Records, this group of Congolese musicians who settled in Kenya, kept the crowd dancing well into the night. Their music is a festive blend of African rumba, rooted in Congolese Lingala music and paired with bittersweet Swahili lyrics, while their live energy remains unparalleled.

Before coming together as Les Mangelepa at the end of the 1960s, the band members were part of Baba Gaston's L'Orchestre Baba Nationale in Lubumbashi, East Congo. By the '70s, African rumba had become one of the main musical movements in Africa and Kenya's capital Nairobi a magnet with studios and vinyl pressing plants by international corporations the likes of PolyGram and EMI. After resituating to Kenya, unhappy with the circumstances playing under Baba Gaston, band leaders Evany (Kabila Kabanze) and Bwamy Malumona as well as several other band members started a side project dubbed Les Mangelepa, which eventually led to a complete split and a new beginning. Les Mangelepa held a regular residency at Nairobi's Uhuru Park and began to draw huge crowds. And so, under George Opiyo’s management, things took off from there... In 2016 the band played their first shows outside of Africa and toured Europe.

Their latest album "recorded by No Nation’s Guy Morley, encapsulates some of their best-loved material, re-recorded and brought up to date using the current personnel of their Nairobi Vibro residency", including hit songs like "Maindusa". Here are eight spirited Les Mangelepa tracks to move you. Catch them performing live in Poland (WOMEX), Germany and the Czech Republic next:

27.10. PL, Katowice, WOMEX
28.10. DE Hildesheim - Folk'N' Fusion
29.10. DE Berlin - YAAM
30.10. DE Düsseldorf KIT-Café
31.10. DE Weikersheim - Club W 71
01.11. CZ, Praha, Palac Akropolis

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom