Guitarist Otis Lumumba takes over from rhumba maestros

Saturday December 14 2019

Otis Lumumba, Kanda Bongo Man's innovative lead guitarist who specialises in soukous and rhumba beats. PHOTO | COURTESY


At the latest Koroga Festival at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, music fans who turned out to enjoy the shows by Congolese maestro Kanda Bongo Man were introduced to Otis Lumumba, Kanda’s innovative lead guitarist who specialises in soukous and rhumba beats.

Kanda Bongo Man, during his last performance at the same venue in 1991, came with Nene Tchakou, who now lives in California, USA.

Kanda has also worked with ace solo guitarist Diblo Dibala, with whom he recorded popular songs such as "Liza" and "Sai".

He also worked with another Congolese guitar wizard, Dally Kimoko, on his big songs, including "Inde Moni", a popular hit in Kenya in the 1990s. Now, he has a new whiz kid, Otis Lumumba.

Otis has carved out a niche for himself as a much-sought-after solo guitarist since he settled in the United Kingdom in 2002.

When he is not performing at concerts, he trains new talent via Skype.



Otis told the Saturday Nation that he is willing to train Kenyans interested in playing the instrument.

"With more young people increasingly showing an interest in music, it has been my ambition to not only feature as a guitarist on stage, but also to encourage many up-and-coming instrumentalists," he said.

“I want to carry guitar playing to a higher level globally.” Otis was inspired to play the guitar after listening to legends Dr Nico Kasanda and Roxy Tshimpaka.

For Otis, the Nairobi tour was nostalgic, having last performed at the Carnivore Restaurant in 2001 with Werrason.

It was during that tour that he played alongside ace guitarist Flamme Kapaya and crooner Ferre Gola, who later left Wenge Musica to team up with Koffi Olomide briefly, before going solo.

He has also worked with guitarist Bukina Faso “Mboka Liya”. "Kenya is still one of my favourite performance spots, bearing in mind that this was one of the last countries where the original Wenge Musica band performed before its split in 1997," Otis said.


After the Nairobi show, Otis was in the Wenge Musica grand concert at the Zenith Hall in Paris in 2002.

He did not return to Kinshasa after the concert, opting to move to UK.

Besides backing up Kanda Bongo Man on tours, Otis also works closely with singer and dancer Nickens Nkoso, guitarist Fiston Lusambo and Jean Claude Ntita Mulamba.

With the London-based Kasai Masai Band under Nickens Nkoso, they hold regular shows in the UK and other parts of Europe.

They have released several songs, including "Ceque Nien" and "Asali".

Some of his most notable tours include accompanying Kanda Bongo Man to the USA in 2013, Australia (2016), Ethiopia (2017) and Ghana (2018).

"Otis remains an integral part of my tour team, bringing new inspiration into the band," said Kanda.


Otis is expected to accompany Kanda Bongo Man during New Year’s shows in Uganda. On December 31, they are scheduled to perform at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

On January 1, they have a New Year's date with rhumba and soukous music fans at the Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe.

It will be a nostalgic return for Kanda to Uganda, which launched him on his way to stardom in Europe, having played briefly with the Bella Mambo and later Bana Mambo bands.