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Mbilia Bel returns to Nairobi for a mega show

Sunday November 17 2019

Congolese songstress Mbilia Bel

Congolese songstress Mbilia Bel during a press conference at Meladen Club in Nairobi’s Upper Hill on June 27, 2017. PHOTO | FILE OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AMOS NGAIRA
By AMOS NGAIRA
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Congolese songbird Mbilia Bel, who first came to Kenya 37 years ago as a member of legendary musician Tabu Ley's Afrisa International, is preparing for a nostalgic return to the country.

She is expected in Nairobi at the end of November for the Koroga Festival, whose stature on the continent and beyond is soaring.

Tabu ley's band toured Kenya in 1982, just a few months after Mbilia, who was initially a dancer, joined the band. Five years later, she would later carve a niche as a top singer.

During her first trip to Kenya, Mbilia Bel did lead vocals on Tabu Ley's 'Kamunga' hit song. She has since visited Kenya several other times for shows.

MEMORABLE RETURN

This time, Mbilia Bel is set to share the stage at the Bomas of Kenya during Koroga Festival with her London-based countryman Kanda Bongo Man who will also be making a memorable return to the country since 2012.

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Lingala music fans will likely be spoilt for choice. They will be entertained by the Kinshasa beat and exotic touch from England.

Kanda Bongo Man will be out to prove that he is still a force to reckon with just like in the 1990s, with "Kwasa Kwasa" dance style.

Speaking recently to the Saturday Nation Mbilia Bel said she was looking forward to returning to Kenya to give her fans the best.

She staged her last major show at the Club Meladen in Nairobi on June 30, 2017.

"Kenya is like my second home and I always feel honoured returning there," she said.

NAKEYI NAIROBI

The evergreen hit "Nakei Nairobi", which she sang while still with Tabu Ley's Afrisa International, has all remained her flagship. Other musicians have done cover versions of the song in live shows.

Two of Tabu Ley's daughters Stella and Collete both studied at the Utalii College in Nairobi in the 1980s. This partly explains her interest in Kenya.

In the song, which was recorded in Lingala and Swahili versions (Nakei Nairobi and ‘Twende Nairobi’), Tabu Ley praises the ambiance of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. What was even more captivating to Kenyans was the mention of the "Harambee Nyayo" slogan as was often used by retired President Daniel arap Moi.

Mbilia Bel's fans should also expect to savour a new Congolese dance style. She will be backed by three dancers from Kinshasa.

This, according to promoter Jules Nsana, is the "Kanyaga sema sorry" (Pardon me for stepping on you).

Most of the popular Congolese dancing styles are a fusion of folklore and street dancing by youth and middle aged in Kinshasa.

PERFORM

Fans will be looking forward to the December 1 concert at Bomas of Kenya. This will be an opportunity for the Kenyans to enjoy old and new styles.

Kenyan artists Emma Jalamo and Steve Kay are also set to perform during the two-day festival, which starts on November 30 and ends on December 1.

Mbilia, arguably one of the best female Congolese singers, made her debut as a dancer, but later took to singing and excelled.

During her five-year stay with Tabu Ley's Afrisa International, she also sang other popular songs such as "Eswi yo Wapi", "Boyaye", "Nadina", "Beyanga’ and "Cadance Mudanda".

It was also during her time with Afrisa International that she teamed up with fellow lady singers Faya Tess and Beyou Ceil.

Mbilia had a daughter with Tabu Ley, Melodie, who is also a musician.

Kanda and Mbilia are expected to arrive in Nairobi on November 28.

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