|KENYA AND BACK AGAIN by JEAN-BOSCO MWENDA
AND EDOUARD MASENGO
(CD available from Elijah Wald) i
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 inNairobi, Kenya, as well as performing in Europe and at
the Newport Folk Festival.
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. As a result, although 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.