dThe eldest daughter of legendary Congolese singer M’pongo Love, Sandra, is determined to keep her mother’s memory alive by following in her footsteps.
The singer, who was recently in Nairobi, is not only now performing her songs, but also those of her mother M’pongo, the prolific singer best known for the 1970s Ndaya hit song.
In recent years, the Ndaya has been popularised on social media with the M’pongo Love fans sharing lyrics. Fans have also been sharing the translations of the song, which are available online. The song, which was very popular among women, is the lament of a woman about her rival, whom she accuses of trying to break up her marriage.
The lyrics emphasise the resilience of a woman determined to save her marriage.
Unknown to most of her fans, M’pongo, who died in January, 1990, had defied the effects of a polio infection at an early age, which resulted in her physical disability. This didn’t deter her from doing what she knew best; singing with her ever charming smile on stage.
M’pongo was born Aimee Francoise M’pongo Landu in 1956. She was in the generation of Congolese singers like Abeti Masikini. They kept the Congolese scene lively with their soothing voices. Abeti, who died four years after M’pongo, also had a daughter, Yolanda, also following in her mother's footsteps.
Now, the two daughters, Sandra M’pongo and Yolanda Masikini, are teaming up to sustain their mother's musical legacies.
Abeti, who inspired other Congolese songbirds, including Mbilia Bel and Tshala Muana, is remembered for songs like Cherie Bade, Bebe Matoko and We Muloko Wangu.
Sandra has also formed the M’pongo Love Foundation through which she channels assistance for needy children.
Interestingly, her two younger siblings are not involved in music.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation, Sandra expressed her interest to work with Kenyan musicians, particularly after watching the clip of the Kenya Utawala Police Band’s video rendition of Ndaya.
Another rendition of the Ndaya that has been trending online is that of the Kenyan Afro Ngoma Band alongside many others who have posted themselves singing along the song.
In DR Congo, the original Ndaya version, which gained popularity from 1978, was composed by former TPOK Jazz musician Freddy Mayaula Mayoni. The song also features the splendid horns by Empopo Loway, who played for both Tabu Ley’s Afrisa and Franco’s TPOK jazz Band. Empopo was among those who inspired M’pongo into taking up a musical career.
As for Mayaula, who had earlier composed the hit song Cherie Bondowe with TPOK Jazz in 1975, music was more of a part time career. He was also a successful footballer who later spent some time in Dar es Salaam.
“I was impressed by the potential of Kenyan musicians and particularly their desire and ability to perform well many songs from Congo DR,” Sandra said.
She is looking forward to returning to Kenya soon, when she will perform remix versions of some of her mother’s popular songs.
The mother of three, who made her debut as a gospel musician in 2012, has several gospel tracks to her credit, among them Accomplissement Surnaturel and Eternel.
Some of the tracks feature guest rappers in Kiswahili and English language.
“My intention of using Swahili and English rappers is to reach out to a wider audience,” Sandra said.
Similarly, she also working on the remixes of other popular songs by her mother such as Bakake, Fetiche Mbongo, Zonga Noki and Masikini. This is alongside other tracks she is also working on set for release soon.
Sandra credits a Canada-based Congolese producer for inspiring her into recording music in 2012 at a time when she had no plan of doing so.
“Having listened to my music online, the fellow countryman, who was also a fan of mother, realised my potential and offered to sponsor me in recording and producing the music,” she said.
However, it was not all rosy for Sandra, who also had to overcome the challenge of balancing between her work at the United Nations in Kinshasa, her family and her music. While recently in Nairobi, she was hosted by Nairobi-based Congolese promoter Jean Claude Motindo. It was Motindo who first brought the popular Congolese gospel Makoma group to Kenya in 2002.
Many of Sandra’s fans now cherish her for carrying on the mantle of her mother, especially with the striking resemblance and similarity in vocal prowess.
The 40-year-old Sandra grew up listening to her mother rehearsing music at home, which, she says, inspired her entry into music at an early age.
“My mother would occasionally bring musical instruments home to rehearse with other musicians and it was something that encouraged me that early, “ Sandra said.
Now she is also encouraging her children to get into music and sports.