The original & traditional Rhumba is mostly slow and long. It is characterised by a lot of singing from the beginning with the listener getting a chance to dance halfway through when the song changes tempo and gains speed.
And the songs of the likes of the late Franco nicknamed ‘the sorcerer of the Guitar’ were very long simply because the artists used the opportunity to explain what they are singing about. Many followers of Rhumba often joke about how one can listen to one song from Gaborone to Francistown. Franco was particularly passionate about doing a lot of that explaining in his songs so much that some referred to him as problematic. He would sing about a resident who was eating a banana on the market and didn’t take time to throw the banana peel on the rubbish instead opting to litter.
He would also sing passionately about current events in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as everyday events that occurred around. Knowing fully well that Franco might be around a corner, he forced his fellow residents to change their lives. “People knew that they could never make a wrong move in the presence of Franco because they feared to earn the wrath of his songs, narrates Kanda Bongo Man. “And he would take time in his song, singing about that problem or mistake. People feared him because they didn’t want to become subjects of his songs,” he says explaining the reason behind the long songs.
“In our generation, we sing to make people dance hence we concentrate more on dancing than talking a lot on the song,” he points out. “In France, I first began by pursuing the traditional Rhumba but there people didn’t get it,” narrates Kanda Bongo Man. Seeing that his passion and love was not being fully appreciated by those that he was trying to please, he came up with another version of Rhumba known as Soukous.
According to Wikipedia, he is also credited as the inventor of the Kwassa Kwassa dance rhythm where the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips. “With Soukous, a listener can start dancing from the first beat till the end,” says the legendary artist during a rare interview with this publication.
With 15 albums under his belt, he explains that after his first album in 1981, titled ‘In the Morning,’ it became increasingly difficult for him to release another album as it took two years on the market and that fans just could not get enough of the album. He released his second album two years later titled Na Muchana or Na Botswana (when he performed in the country) amid the fear that the new album might be swallowed by the fame created by his maiden album.
The legend arrived in Gaborone this week Monday and he was expected to perform at Trekkers nightclub in Maun as well as Boccim Hall in Francistown on Friday & Saturday respectively. Accompanied by his 12-piece band, he was supporting Diva Vebrok who was launching her production called Re Mo dilong. Other artists pencilled to perform included Jeff Matheatau, Jojo, Jujuboy, Matsieng, Tumza, B Collabo & Mzakhula. One of the sponsors of the show is none other than African Excursion who would show him around Moremi Game Reserve. Both shows are organised by Gilbert Promotions. In 2015, he will finally return to Gaborone where he will hold his first show after many years. The show is slated to take place beginning of April at the National Stadium.
“My music is still relevant. Even for those fans who were still young when I was in Botswana, they would have listened to my music with their parents. And I can tell you that the National Stadium will never be the same again once I have that show,” he promises. Kanda Bongo Man first came to Botswana in 1991 after his tour in Australia. He met with a certain promoter by the name John in South Africa where he had a show and he decided to pop into the country and entertain his many fans on this side of the border.
“I met Vebrok and she introduced me to her promoter, Gilbert Seagile of Gilbert Promotions, and that’s how this journey began of returning to Botswana,” he notes.