Mangelepa singer Kalenga Nzazi strikes his last note

Les Mangelepa singer Kalenga Nzazi

Les Mangelepa singer Kalenga Nzazi. He died on Wednesday, August 9, in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Pool

The Lingala music community in East and Central Africa is in mourning following the death of veteran Congolese singer Kalenga Nzazi.

The composer of Les Mangelepa’s hit song Embakasi died on Wednesday afternoon in Nairobi.

Kalenga, popularly known as Vivi, was one of the three surviving members of the legendary Les Mangelepa band. The others are band leader Kabila Kabanza “Evani” and Lutulu Kanicky Macky.

Speaking to the Nation on Thursday, August 10, Kabanze expressed his sadness at the death of his long-time colleague and friend. “His death is a setback because we had just started working on the production of a new album. He was battling diabetes, hypertension and a heart condition,” he said.

The singer collapsed and died at his home in Nairobi, according to family members and colleagues. His body is lying at the Mama Lucy Hospital mortuary.

According to Kabanze, funeral arrangements will be made in consultation with family members, fellow musicians and well-wishers.

George Ouma Jojo, Mangelepa’s band manager, said Vivi’s death occurred shortly after a band meeting on Wednesday morning, which he hadn’t attended.

“We realised something had gone wrong when his phone went unanswered throughout the afternoon until later when his colleagues arrived at his home to confirm the sad news,” Jojo said.

For the group’s fans, Vivi’s death comes as an anti-climax after they celebrated the band’s 47th anniversary last month.

Formed on July 1, 1976, Les Mangelepa was initially based at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park Inn before moving to Garden Square Restaurant. It was here that the group performed gigs with others like Les Kinios and Bwambe Bwambe.

The talented young musicians from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo were brought to Kenya by the legendary Baba Gaston (Ilunga Omer).

Their musical journey had began in 1972 in Tanzania, where they were based for almost three years before moving to Nairobi in 1975.

Vivi’s hit Embakasi, released in 1978, was one of the group’s most popular songs and, according to Kabanze, it went gold about two years later. Other popular compositions by Vivi include Ole Ole, Kanemo, Zoao, Arthur Mariga and Suzanna. He also participated in the recording of other popular compositions of the band such as Nyako Konya, Walter, Mimba and Kizungu zungu.

Fans took to social media yesterday to pay tribute to the late singer. London-based producer Guy Morley wrote: “I will remember him for his charisma on stage, having been involved in their European tours for the past 10 years.”

Others who paid tribute to Vivi included Mombasa rhumba fan and manager PDG Mike Mwakamba (Panya Buku), Nairobians Peter Gakenga Githui, Humphrey Mahiva, Steve Mwinamo Junior, Ken Kesh Makokha and Kennedy Ontuga (DJ Le Grand Molakisi).