The 28th edition of the Koroga Festival is billed to be a star-studded show, with veteran Congolese musicians, the king of Kwasa Kwasa Kanda Bongo Man and the Queen of rhumba M’bilia Bel scheduled to perform.
Kanda and M’bilia are expected to share the stage on the second day of the event at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.
The festival, to be held on November 30 and December 1, is meant to attract the two maestros’ fans and a younger fan base.
Kenyan benga singer Emma Jalamo and Steve Kay are also expected to perform.
The return of Kanda Bongo Man and M’bilia will rekindle fond memories among Kenyan fans of Congolese music.
Kanda, who spoke to the Saturday Nation by telephone from London, where he is based, expressed his delight at the prospect of returning to Kenya, seven years since he last performed here.
Kanda is best remembered in the country for his popular Lingala songs such as “Inde Monie”, “Sai” and “Lisa” and the rhumba ballad “Sweet Elizabeth”.
It will be Kanda’s second show at the Bomas of Kenya, having last performed there back in 1991. But he returned to the country in 2012, when he held a performance in Kenya at the Deep West Resort Club in Nairobi West.
“Kenya means a lot to my music career, particularly considering what I went through in the 1990s,” Kanda told the Saturday Nation, referring to his 1991 deportation for allegedly breaching immigration rules. “But I am glad to come back anytime,” he said.
Rumours spread then that he had been deported after falling out with a senior government official in a love triangle involving a prominent TV presenter.
But, on his return to Kenya in 2008, the singer clarified that the deportation had more to do with a conflict of interest in shows he had planned in Europe and having been expected to perform during the wedding reception of the son of a then senior government official in South Nyanza.
After this embarrassment, Kanda avoided Kenya but his music was still a favourite among his fans.
Now, as he prepares to return to Kenya, Kanda says he is sad that he will not meet with the late legendary Kikuyu musician Joseph Kamaru, with whom he performed during the memorable 1991 Nyayo National Stadium show.
It had been billed as a competition between the two stars, but ended up being just a good show for music lovers.
Kanda is expected in Nairobi on November 28, with a backup band from England featuring Nicken Nkoso and guitarist Otis among others.
M’bilia, arguably one of the best female singers from the Congo, will be returning to Kenya after her last major concert held at Nairobi’s Club Meladen, in May 2017. She held other shows later, but these were deemed low-key.
M’bilia, who blossomed in her singing career with the legendary Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International band in the early 1980s, is best known for songs such as “Eswi Yo Wapi”, “Beyanga”, “Boyaye”, and the ever-popular “Nakei Nairobi”.
For most fans of African music, “Nakei Nairobi” has been something of an anthem in concerts where renditions have been performed.
Like Kanda, M’bilia will be coming with a band from Kinshasa to spice up her performances.