Soukous legend Kanda Bongo Man, was born on June 8th 1955 in the village of Inongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He grew up listening to Congolese legends such as Le Grand Kalle, Franco, Vicky Longomba, Dr. Nico, Tabu Ley and Zaiko Langa Langa, but Kanda began his own musical career when he joined the group ” Orchestra Bella Mambo” in 1972, learning his craft from fellow band member Soki Dianzenza. Kanda Bongo Man and Dianzenza then both joined Diazenza’s brother’s group Bella Bella before Kanda moved to Paris in 1979.
In 1981 Kanda released his first solo album “Iyole”. This became a number one hit all over Africa and was to be closely followed by “Djessy” in 1982.
Kanda Bongo Man changed the structure of soukous music which traditionally consisted of several verses, followed by a single guitar solo at the end of a song. Kanda, on the other hand, added guitar solos after every verse and even sometimes at the beginning of a song. However he became best known for his video dance moves to the popular Kwassa Kwassa dance during the late 1980s. In this dance, the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips and Kanda gained the accolade “King Of Kwassa Kwassa”.
During his career Kanda has toured the globe, attracting huge audiences in stadiums across all five continents, including 15,000 people in Central Park and 30,000 at the Celebrate Brooklyn festival, both in New York City. He has met with many African heads of state as a leading “ambassador” of African popular culture.
He performed at the first ever WOMAD in England in 1982 and in 1989 he released his first American-distributed album, Kwassa Kwassa, and successfully reached a newer and challenging audience more familiar with Rock and Roll. Once Soukous was introduced into American world music scene, it took hold and led to the release of several other albums on the Rycodisk label.
Kanda Bongo Man performances are fast moving and exciting combinations of music and dance. The shimmering duel guitar parts and dance moves are rooted in Congolese tradition and interpreted by exhilarating female dancers – an integral part of any Kanda Bongo Manshow. Kanda likes to break down the barriers between performers and audiences by getting people on their feet to fully participate in the shows. As one member of the press famously said: “If Kanda Bongo doesn’t make you want to dance, call an ambulance. You’re dead.”