Kekele Biography

Congolese rumba supergroup formed by guitarist Papa Noel and veteran vocalists Bumba Massa, Loko ‘Djeskain’ Massengo, Jean-Papy Ramazani, Nyboma (Nyboma Mwan’dido, Zaire) and Wuta Mayi. The musical director for the group, Papa Noel could call on the experience gleaned from a career dating back to the 50s, including spells in African Jazz and TPOK Jazz. Nyboma and Wuta Mayi were best known for their work with Les Quatre Étoiles, with Nyboma also working with Bella-Bella, Lipua-Lipua and his own group Orchestre Kamalé, and Mayi spending time with Franco’s OK Jazz in the late 70s and early 80s. The other three vocalists could boast of recording careers dating back to the 60s.

Kékélé was launched on the back of the small-scale rumba revival of the late 90s, with the personnel experimenting with their sound in a series of informal jams. They then teamed up with renowned producer Ibrahima Sylla and supporting musicians Syran Mbenza (guitar, also from Les Quatre Étoiles), Sungu Debat (conga) and Viviane Arnoux (accordion), and made their international recording debut in 2001 with the sparkling Rumba Congo. The album was hailed as a timely return to the classic Congolese rumba sound of the 50s and 60s, with the sweet vocal sound winning over a whole raft of new converts.

Papa Noel’s ill health meant he was absent from the follow-up Congo Life, but guitarist Rigo Star provided a more than adequate replacement on another collection of glorious old-style rumba tunes. Papa Noel returned to the line-up in time for the 2006 recording Kinavana, which saw the group tackling the work of rumba legend Guillermo Portables in an impressive fusion of Cuban and African styles.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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