Mandi Akamba is a household name when it comes to music from the heart of the African continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this does not relate to Kwasa Kwasa. Mandi’s country of origin is as vast and as multifaceted as – if the comparison is permited – South Africa and Namibia combined. Similarly, the musical styles existing in the DRC are as numerous and diverse as the hundreds of different tribes inhabiting this vast space, a universe of its own. Mandi hails from the province, Bandundu, home of the Bayaka, a tribe of warriors who live alongside the Kwango River in the far north-west of the DRC. Mandi sings in his home language, Kiyaka, and his songs are about love and womanhood, war, the changing seasons, the African hunt, customs, generosity of the real leader, and humanity in general. His style is reminiscent of that of other griots from his area like Papa Wemba and Lokua Kanza who come from the same or similar backgrounds. Mandi brings to life the folklore of his country, but in a new format – courtesy of Ngoz, his backing band. Ngoz is a central African expression for the sound made by a lion – the lion’s roar. Ngoz hails from the DRC’s ‘little namesake’ and neighbour country, the Congo Brazza, Jean-Pierre (bass guitar), Marius Olloy (keyboards), Sam Batola (lead guitar) and Guichont Dikoumou (drums) are seasoned Jazz veterans, who graduated from the Academy of Arts of Congo Brazzaville. Guichont was a pupil of Emil Biayenda of “Tambour De Brazza” fame. They bring new harmonies into play and the end result is something one might call world music, but with a distinct African folklore pedigree. Mandi and Ngoz will perform tomorrow evening.
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