Kanda Bongo Man (38841)

Greetings, everyone. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any hotter, surprise! As our Africa Sings!!! journey continues into fall and winter 2010, what a fantastic coup. For our Cycle 6 co-host, we have the Kanda Bongo Man–the amazing, legendary Congolese kings of soukous (music)! And if that was not significant enough, we also have the talk of the globe, the World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures (WFBAC) as a co-host, which will be held at the end of the year in Dakar, Senegal, from December 20-31!

The Kanda Bongo Man will be in New York City next month to promote his new CD, “Kanda Bongo Man: Non-Stop Feeling” (TP Productions, 2010). And that’s absolutely right–the feeling is nonstop indeed. Once you get into the irresistible, catchy, uplifting music that is Kanda’s trademark, you’re hooked. Since I got my copy of his fantastic new CD, it has been on replay. Yep, it’s party time! The Kanda Bongo Man is in the house. And all is well with the world. Or is it?

There’s another reason for his upcoming trip: The Kanda Bongo Man wants to tell you about what is going on in his homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And trust me, people, it ain’t pretty. For starters, let’s look at the 500 women, children and BABIES that have been raped from July until now, according to the United Nations. And that’s just this year. Just imagine this atrocity.

According to Dr. Kasimbo Charles Kacha, a district medical chief, “Four young boys were raped…they were babies aged 1 month, 6 months, a year and 18 months.” Eighteen MONTHS! What kind of evil entity would do this? Where in all of this is the spirit of mankind knowing what it means to be human?

Sorry, but we have to turn off the music for a moment to address this evil. Could you imagine that such sick wickedness would prevail in our technologically savvy, 21st century society? Many of us cannot imagine it; others are totally clueless. That’s why the Kanda Bongo Man will inform you about what is going on, and what has been going on in the Congo every day and why–although it’s right there on the Internet for all of us to see–we all need to be aware of it, so we can protest these disgraceful, brutal and inhumane acts.

Born in Inongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kanda launched his career as the lead singer of the Orchestra Belle Mambo when he was about 18 years old. A few years later, he began his solo career, which took off big time, especially after he immigrated to France. This was about 1979. In Paris, influenced by the zouk music of the musicians from Martinique and Guadeloupe, Kanda started pushing the envelope by fusing catchy guitar solos at the beginning, end and after each verse of a song. Soon, this addition introduced the Congolese-based kwassa kwassa dance rhythm to Europe, and it, along with the Kanda Bongo Man, became the exciting hit of the day.

It was just a matter of time before Kanda was churning out albums: “Iyole” (1981), “Djessy” (1982) and “Amouor Fou” (1984). Yes, the ’80s was the decade of the Kanda Bongo Man! What? With “Amour Fou (1984), “Malinga (1986), “Lela Lea” (1987), “Sai Liza” (1988) and the fierce “Kwassa Kwassa” (1989), he was on top of the world. And rightfully so. The ’90s would be an instant replay of his great success.

But while all of this was going on in France, what was happening back in the Congo? Far too much to tackle right now, so we’re going to stop here for this week, but we will pick up next time when we learn more from Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo, as well as through the off-off Broadway play “A Season in the Congo,” by the late Martinican statesman Aime Cesaire, opening on September 30 at the Lion Theatre (410 West 42nd Street in New York City).

Mr. Carney’s discussion and Mr. Cesaire’s dialogue will help explain why the rape of women, children and babies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to happen. The Congo is a country rich in oil resources, natural gas, diamond, copper uranium, and, more recently, coltan, which, beginning in the ’90s, became the critical must-have-by-any-means, necessary element for the high-tech world.

And now with our minds set on the developing technology race that will change Africa, let’s head to Senegal to meet our other Cycle 6 Africa Sings!!! co-host, the WFBAC. And yes, everybody, we are indeed honored to have the WFBAC as the co-host of our Africa Sings!!! Cycle 6 edition.

The WFBAC, the third such version of the historic, international, multi-disciplinary meeting, will take place in Dakar (the teeming capital of the 75,955 square miles that comprise the Republic of Senegal) for 21 days of Black arts and cultures from around the African Diaspora. Here, the rich, flavorful music of language–Wolof, Fulani, Mende and French–rings throughout the colorful country, populated by the regal Wolof, Foulah, Sereer, Toucouleur and Diola people.

Here in Dakar, the popular Senegalese president, His Excellency Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, and his fellow organizers of the WFBAC have been in preparation mode to mount “the largest global gathering to date of Black artists, writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, scientists and other luminaries.”

Initiated by President Leopold Sedar Senghor, the first WFBAC was held in Dakar in 1966, bringing together artists of varying disciplines and generations, whose art were concrete, substantial works resulting from African peoples’ struggles to win back their autonomy in a land only recently returned to African rule. The second edition of the WFBAC was hosted by Lagos, Nigeria in 1977.

For this third edition, everybody will be there, including musicians like Baaba Maal (Senegal), Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Salif Keita (Mali), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), Bembeya Jazz (Guinea), Mahotella Queens (South Africa), Habib Koite (Mali) and Chucho Valdes with the Afro-Cuban Jazz Messengers (Cuba).

Kwame Kwei-Armah, the British-Ghanian artist-broadcaster, was just appointed artistic director of WFBAC, In addition to musicians, others in the lineup include artists in the dance discipline as well as the visual arts, photography and design; concerts; fashion shows; a book fair; a retrospective of films by African and Diaspora directors; theater; dance; urban culture (rap, graffiti, etc.); a science and technology exhibition; a food and wine festival; and traditional architecture, among other activities.

For more information, the lineup and accommodations, please visit www.blackworldfestival.com or www.festivalartsnegres.com.

To contact the Africa Sings!!! Group, please e-mail africasings@gmail.com.