Top Congolese guitarist Syran Mbenza’s tribute to East African fans

Congolese guitarist Syran Mbenza

Congolese guitarist Syran Mbenza.

Photo credit: File

Veteran Paris-based Congolese guitarist Syran Mbenza has a special treat for East African fans of Lingala Rhumba music.

It is his recently released single titled, Niekesse Maneno, featuring former Les Kinois and Virunga band leader Samba Mapangala, who now lives in the United States.

Syran has dedicated the song to his many East African fans in the continuation of his strongest musical efforts to date.

The single, which was produced through the Nairobi-based Ketebul Music Records of Tabu Osusa, in collaboration with other Congolese musicians in France and USA, is the culmination of a five-year initiative to produce music that would suit the desires of East African music fans.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation, Syran narrated how he reached out to his long-term music ally Samba, to lend him a hand in producing the song.

“This song dates back more than five years. I started making the arrangements in a small studio. I managed with my little means to produce this single before reaching out to Samba and others,” he recalls.

Samba Mapangala

Samba Mapangala

Photo credit: Amos Ngaira | Nation Media Group

In an effort to give the single a more Kenyan and East African feel, he chose to include Kenyan dancers in the video clip alongside the sceneries from the USA and France.

As Tabu Osusa of Ketebul Records noted, it was an honour for him to work on the compilation of the clip sceneries of the song.

Syran Mbenza’s musical journey with Samba Mapangala dates back to the early 1990s, when they teamed up to produce the ever-popular Vunja Mifupa hit song.

Other big songs in the package included Marina and Virunga.

Syran has been living in France since 1981, where he arrived after leaving Kinshasa for Togo and later Cote d’Ivoire in search of musical greener pastures.

In Abidjan, he teamed up with Sam Mangwana, Lokassa ya Mbongo, Dizzy Mandjeku, and Bopol Mansiamina in the African All Stars Band.

 In France, he joined Four Stars group, teaming up with mercurial crooners Nyboma Mwandido and Wuta Mayi alongside guitar wizard Bopol Mansiamina.

He also produced some songs with his childhood friends, Jean Papy Ramazani and Passi Jo, under the studio session Kass Kass group, Notably, the Kass Kass album featured the Helena hit song.

Later, he and his Paris-based colleagues Nyboma and Loko Massengo, later formed the classic rhumba Kekele session group.

 Last Sunday Massengo was in Kinshasa alongside Mario Matadidi to attend the burial ceremony of Saak Sakul. their former counterpart in Trio Madjesi (Orchestre Sosoliso band).

During his earlier days in Democratic Republic of Congo, Syran performed with La Banita, Ewawa de Malph, Dynamic Jazz, Jamel Orchestre, and Lovy Orchestra of Zaire (of legendary singer and composer Vicky Longomba).

Vicky was in the early days until the late 1960s a musical partner of the grandmaster, Franco Luambo Makiadi, in his TPOK Jazz Band.