Orchestra Super Mazembe
This extraordinary and highly influential group dominated the Kenyan and East African music scene from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The band's roots lay in Congo-Kinshasa (then Zaire), and specifically in the band's hometown of Likasi, near Lubumbashi, in Shaba Province. In 1967 Mutonkole Didos Longwa founded a group called Super Vox. Two years later they headed for Zambia where the group eventually met the acclaimed musician Nashil Pichen of the Kenyan Super Eagles Limpopo Band who fired their imaginations when he told them about the vibrant music scene in Kenya. And so, in 1974, they headed for the bright lights of Nairobi, one of the musical hubs of '70s Africa. It was then that they changed their name to Super Mazembe (Lingala for bulldozer) boasting that their music had the same earthmoving effect!
The group quickly found a willing audience and took the country by storm. They popularized their own dance style, mushosho, as they vied for popularity with rival groups Les Mangelepa, Les Kinois, Les Wanyika and Orchestra Virunga. Many bands were tied to specific venues by resident-band contracts, but this was not the case with Mazembe, who crisscrossed the country and also toured in Tanzania and Uganda setting audiences alight wherever they appeared. They became a household name. According to a Nairobi newspaper the group was so popular that "agricultural shows and top hotels scrambled to book them".
From the mid-1980s the group was beset with problems and vanished from the music scene. There were attempts to revive the group in the '90s, but with the death of the leading band member Longwa Didos in 1999, it all came to an end.
Courtesy Calabash Music