Today marks Congo DR's Independence Day, and for the Congolese nationals living in Nairobi and other towns in Kenya, this will be another opportunity to showcase what they excel at - music.
The country got independent on June 30, 1960, and will be marking its 58th anniversary this year.
In Kinshasa, this glorious day comes amidst the tensions associated with the build-up to the country's general elections, to be held in a year's time. Despite strong opposition, President Joseph Kabila, who has been at the helm since January 2001, is still be in power despite having officially completed his mandatory term.
Since attaining independence from Belgium in June 1960, and during colonial rule, the country’s heritage has mostly been focused on music.
From the legendary pioneer band leader, the Grand Kalle Jeff, and his colleagues of the African Jazz, who composed the “Independence Cha Cha" song, there has been no turning back for Congolese musicians across the world.
For nearly three decades from the late 1950s to the 1980s, the Congolese music scene was dominated by the grandmaster, Franco Luambo Makiadi, and his rival, Tabu Ley Rochereau. They excelled as musicians, leaving rich discographies when they died, Franco in 1989 and Tabu Ley in 2013.
Two long serving members of Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International band, US-based saxophone player Mekanisi Modero and veteran Paris-based guitarist Dino Vangu, are currently in Kinshasa for shows.
They are teaming up with songbird Mbilia Bel and other Kinshasa musicians to stage Independence shows, which were due to begin last evening and tomorrow in Kinshasa.
In Kenya, the major highlight will be performances by Congolese musicians living in Mombasa. There will be a 'Congo Night' under the auspices of the Union of Congolese in Mombasa (UCM).
The show, dubbed 'Nani Mkali Concert,' will be held today at the Summit Grill (VOK) on the Mombasa-Malindi highway. It will feature Congolese musicians based in Mombasa.
London-based guitarists Mose Fan Fan of the Papa Lolo, fame and Fiston Lusambo are also in Nairobi to make guest appearances during the Congo Day celebrations at various spots in Nairobi this weekend.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation earlier this week, Ricky Mulolo, the band leader of the Idologia Musica band, said they had organised the show to bring together Congolese nationals living Mombasa and Kenyan fans of Lingala music.
“For many years, Mombasa has been host to many of us and the residents there have been supportive of our music, that is why we chose to mark our independence day in Mombasa,” Mulolo said.
Invitations have also been sent out to Kenyans who are rhumba music lovers. Entry Sh500 and Sh1,000 (VIP).
Groups taking part in the event will be Ambro La Musica, Idologia Musica, Star Rumba and Chadeba Loningisa.
Mulolo and his group perform every Thursday at the Lounge City Mall, on Saturdays at the Club Legend, Mtwapa, while on Sundays they are at Danka Lounge.
Ambro La Musica group performs every Tuesday at the Casablanca Bar, while on Saturdays they are at Club Bottoms Up.
Chadeba Longisa led by Dezo Baba performs every Saturday and Sunday at the Breeze Hotel while Star Rumba, led by Americano, performs every Friday at the Paradise Bar in Mombasa.
In the early 1970s, Mombasa played host to Les Kinoirs band under the patronage of veteran Papa Chuza. The group featured the legendary Dieudos and Kalemby Kajos. This is the same group where Moreno Batamba performed and which released their most popular songs, 'Tshiku.'
In Nairobi, there was yet another popular band from eastern Congo in the late 1960s and early 70s, Orch Hi Fives (Mpete wa Kibushi), also known as Bana Batano.
It was in Mombasa where the legendary Simba Wanyika and Them Mushrooms bands were formed back in 1972.
Congolese (Zaire) leader Mobutu Sese Seko was said to have business interests in a private resort in Mombasa.
Meanwhile, Les Mangelepa, an old Congolese band based in Nairobi, returned from their European tour earlier last week.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation on Wednesday, veteran band leader Kabila Kabanze was enthusiastic. “It was an encouraging experience during a recent tour when we staged 11 shows in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and Poland,” he said.
Mangelepa will mark their 42th anniversary tomorrow.