The Nation (Nairobi)

23 September 2011

Kenya: End of an Era As Composer of 'Karubandika' Exits the Stage

One of the most famous songs to come out of Tanzania was composed by a singer from Congo DR, in Kiswahili.

The song Karubandika made the band Marquis du Zaire famous in East Africa.

The song revolves around a man who pretended to be prominent, with an important job, when he was actually a layabout who went to nightclubs to sponge on others.

The man had no shame as he would also beg for cigarettes from strangers.

This became a massive song that confirmed the pedigree of musicians from Eastern Congo, who had left their country in search of greener pastures in East Africa.

Sadly, however, Kasalo Kyanga, the man who wrote Karubandika, is no more. He died a fortnight ago in Dar es Salaam after a short illness.

Kasalo Kyanga will be remembered for his partnership with Marquis band, better known as Zembwela.

Nairobi-based Congolese singer Sulutani Skassy, who first performed with Kasalo in the early 1980s, says Kasolo's death had dealt a major blow to the music scene.

Skassy recalled how former veteran TPOK Jazz guitarist, Mosese Fan Fan, who was then based in Dar es Salaam, had travelled to Kivu in Eastern Congo where he recruited him and Kasalo to join Orch Super Matimila in 1980.

"Mosese had hinted to us that the owner of Matimila required singers from Eastern Congo, and that was when we came on board," Skassy said.

However, since Skassy and Kasalo were not good in Kiswahili, they prevailed on the owner of band to recruit the late Dr Remmy Ongala to join Orch Super Matimila from Orch Makassy.

In 1982, Skassy and Kasalo came to Nairobi where they briefly linked up with Orch Toma Toma, recording songs until 1984 when Kasalo returned to Dar to join Maquis.

Kasalo then composed the famous Karubandika in 1985.

"This is the song which propelled Kasalo to fame," Skassy said.

A reworking of the Karubandika was done by the late Tanzanian musician Cool James (Mtoto wa Dandu).

Karubandika is in the class of evergreen Kiswahili melodies like Jambo Bwana (Them Mushrooms), Sina Makosa (Prof Omar Shabaan) and Malaika (Fadhili William).

In 1995 Kasalo joined the Nairobi-based Tekelezo Band featuring Willy Muli.

All along, Kasalo was accompanied by his twin brother, Kyanga Songa, who died in Nairobi in November 1999 and was buried in Thika.

When the Congolese first arrived in Tanzania in the late 1960s, escaping the mismanagement and looting of their resource-rich country by President Mobutu Sese Seko, they found a decree by founding President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that all bands must record and perform their live concerts only in Kiswahili.

The Congolese had to learn Kiswahili fast if they hoped to continue playing music in a country that had opened its doors for them.

Marquis had such greats as King Kiki, a good composer and singer who played a vital role in persuading musicians to journey to Dar es Salaam to join the band.

Others were Nguza Viking, who played the solo guitar in Karubandika.

Popular songs released by the Maquis Du Zaire include Mpenzi Lutta, Ngai Mwana Malole, Masua and Kiongo.

Nguza formed the Sambulumaa Band in 1988, a splinter from Maquis.

The fortunes of the two men are in sharp contrast in their twilight years.

Mzee King Kiki still leads a band composed of veteran musicians, Wazee Zugu, who play regularly at Club La Prima on Hassan Mwinyi Road in Dar es Salaam.

He is popularly known as Kitambaa Cheupe, after the title of his popular song.

Nguza Viking is serving a life sentence, having been convicted of defiling minors and sexually assaulting schoolboys.

He was convicted alongside his immensely talented son, Papi Kocha, of the same offences.

The Maquis du Zaire Band used to compete with others in popularity like Safari Sound, Vijana Jazz and Mlimani Park Orchestre in Dar es Salaam.

Other members of Marquis du Zaire who made big names include Dekula Kahanga "Vumbi", Ngoi Mudenga, Mulenga Vatta and Mutombo Fungula.

Veteran Dar es Salaam-based Congolese musician Tshimanga Assosa also leads Bana Maquis. an off shoot of the Maquis du Zaire band.

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