Congolese Guitar, 1950s -- Jean-Bosco Mwenda and Friends

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These are home-made CDs of African music which unfortunately is otherwise unavailable. For more information, visit the main African music page or the Kenyan CDs page. For further information on Bosco's life, check out my interview with Jean-Bosco Mwenda. I also have various other CDs available, such as a collection of work by the Bahamian Blind Blake and three blues anthologies: Ida Cox, Leroy Carr, and Pop Blues.


Jean-Bosco Mwenda (known later in life as Mwenda Wa Bayeke) was the most famous and influential of the virtuoso fingerstyle guitarists who flourished in Southeastern Congo, near the Zambian border, in the 1950s. His first recording, "Masanga," was imitated throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and he went on to make more than 200 records, both in the Congo and during a stay of over a year in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as performing in Europe and at the Newport Folk Festival. These recordings were from a series of reel-to-reel tapes in the library of Radio Zaire in Lubumbashi, and represented the station's vanished collection of 78s. Be warned: Although the music is wonderful, the sound quality on some cuts is pretty rocky -- some of the 78s had been played a good deal, and there were two tape transfers between the 78s and the CD. However, these include many of Bosco's finest records, as well as songs by his frequent partner Losta Abelo and other local players, none of them available elsewhere. For lagniappe, there are two wonderful vocal group sides by the Zambian star Alick Nkhata (sometimes spelled Nkatha). This CD has been slightly revised in 2007, since a friend provided me with four better-sounding tracks. To buy this CD, go here.

1. Mwendo tulikwenda 
Vijana wapuuzi
3. Kuwowa pasipo kumwaza
4. Pauline Mubaya
5. Benya kwenda kwetu (Losta Abelo)
6. Mtoto wa nkanga mu kiliyo
7. Kupokelea wageni
8. Kubudongo
9. Abalumendo (Alick Nkhata)
10. Kitu gani ku mulango

11. Mapendano ya ku macho
(Losta Abelo)
12. Bibi twende kwetu (or "Pension")
13. Mtoto Kidogo

14. Singa tumbo ya wandumba
15. Pauline (Paris Kabongo)
 16. Lucia
17. Kupendana twapendana
18. Nasikitika bumbalaka (Losta Abelo)
19. Bibi mupenzi
20. Kupokelewa
21. Sikiliza pendo lako
22. Na mokolo Mwa Lelo (Leon Bukasa)
23. Station Ya Mweo (Alick Nkhata)
24. Mukwenu wajima majimi
25. Mama kilio
26. Vijana wengi (Losta Abelo)
27. Namlia

In the late 1950s, both Jean-Bosco and his cousin Edouard Masengo went to Nairobi, where there was a more active music scene. Bosco got a radio job advertising a headache remedy, Aspro, but after a little over a year he decided to go home to Lubumbashi (at that time Elizabethville). Masengo stayed in Nairobi, where he remained a popular performer through the 1960s. (There is an interesting article on the promoter who worked with Masengo and brought Bosco to Kenya in the East African.) As a result, alhough in the Congo he was not considered as important a figure as Bosco or Losta Abelo, Masengo is far more popular in Kenya. His style is lighter than Bosco's, and his guitar work less virtuosic, but there is a lovely lilt to his singing, and he prided himself on his varied repertoire. The interview that finishes this CD, apparently recorded in Kenya in the early 1960s, finds him singing such oddities as "Paper Doll" and a Swahili "Jamaica Farewell" along with his own compositions. The other tracks are largely Kenyan commercial recordings from 1959-1960 (I have assigned credits by ear, and welcome corrections). The last three Bosco tracks are from a tape he had in his home, recorded I believe in the late 1970s, and I recorded the last pre-interview Masengo track in 1990. Overall, the sound on these recordings is much cleaner than on the Radio Zaire 78s. To buy this CD, go here.

1. Tajiri Na Mali Yake -- Masengo
2. Pita Mama Wakuone -- Masengo
3. Pilipili Usiyokula -- Masengo
4. Bembeleza Mapendo -- Bosco
5. Ulofa ni Mabaya -- Bosco
6. Mke Mzuri (Kijana muke) -- Bosco (tablature)
7. Bibi Teresa -- Bosco
8. Chekelea Na Machekeleo -- Masengo
9. Kabwebwe Kikambala -- Masengo
10. Bwana Alisema -- Masengo
11. Usimsubue -- Masengo
12. Bibi Sofia -- Bosco
13. Leo Ni Furaha -- Bosco
14. Fundi Konde -- Masengo
15. Safari Taabu -- Masengo
16. Bibi Mpenzi -- Bosco
17. Kuolewa -- Bosco
18. Wezi ni wabaya -- Bosco
19. Masanga -- Bosco
20. Josephine -- Masengo
21-27. Masengo interview and songs, including "Les Trois Qualités d'une Femme" and "Jamaica Farewell."

including cds by Edward Masengo