More than three decades into his storied career, Samba Mapangala’s soaring voice and uplifting melodies still bring joy to fans the world over. Those hearing Samba’s music for the first time frequently join the ranks of the enthusiasts whose collections are well stocked with Orchestra Virunga albums.
Samba began singing professionally in Kinshasa, in the early 1970s. In 1975, he moved with other musicians to Kampala, where they formed the group Les Kinois. From 1977 to 1997, he was based in Nairobi, first with Les Kinois, then with his Orchestra Virunga, which he founded in 1981.
In UJUMBE (The Message), his sparkling 2001 release, Samba keeps the Orchestra Virunga spirit alive, delivering songs that are uplifting on the dance floor, and thoughtful in their lyrical messages. The highlight for many has been “Dunia Tuna Pita”, which took by storm the airwaves of East Africa and beyond.
Joining Samba on UJUMBE is an all-star lineup featuring Bopol Mansiamina (rhythm guitar), Caien Madoka (lead guitar), Nyboma Mwan’dido (vocals) and Komba Bellow (drums). The bass guitarist is Boss Matuta. Gracing the album on saxophone are the late Yuma Kasongo (Michel Sax)--one of the most celebrated horn players in Congolese music--and Nzeza Freddy.
In reviewing UJUMBE, distinguished music critic Robert Christgau wrote, ”Everywhere he's gone, from Matadi to Kinshasa to Kampala to Nairobi to Paris to his safe Maryland home, Mapangala has brought along a tenor as sweet as a licked frenum and a tune sense that knows what it wants--no wonder he found the sway of Swahili swing so amenable.”
Experience what everyone is talking about. Take a listen to UJUMBE, and get the message!