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Samba Mapangala

Samba Mapangala was born in Matadi, in the region known as Bas-Congo. In the early 1970s he moved to Kinshasha for secondary education. His vocal talents were recognized early and he worked in various Kinshasa bands like Bariza, Super Tukina, Super Bella Bella, and Saka Saka. Samba travelled east with other musicians in 1975. In Kampala, Uganda in 1976, they made their mark as Les Kinois (The Kinshasans). With Samba as lead singer, Les Kinois relocated to Nairobi, Kenya in 1977 and took the music scene by storm. Samba formed his own band, the legendary Orchestra Virunga, in 1981. Virunga, named after a volcanic mountain range in central Africa, proved to be one of East Africa's most popular groups, Their music is an innovative mix of the best rumba and soukous from Congo, with the earthier Kenyan style. Samba  composes and sings in both Lingala and Kiswahili. His astounding voice has been described as melting in the ears. Virunga as a whole also get high praise; "The telepathy that runs between the bass, drums and rhythmic guitar players of this outfit is jaw-dropping…" (Ian Anderson, Folk Roots). 
Virunga's first recording was the LP It's Disco Time with Samba Mapangala (1982). Samba Mapangala and Virunga went to UK in April 1991 and played 23 concerts, not surprisingly causing a terrific buzz. After celebrated journeys through Africa, Europe and North America, Virunga last toured in 1997. Samba then settled with his family in Washington D.C. Samba Mapangala made a triumphant return with his CD Ujumbe (The Message).
Samba's albums to date include Virunga Volcano (1990), Evasion (1983), Feet on Fire (1991), Karibu Kenya (1995) recorded in Paris with Les Quatres Etoiles and other veteran musicians, Vunja Mifupa (1997) released on cassette in East Africa as Confusion and in 2001, Ujumbe. Virunga Roots Volume 1, featuring songs from the Orchestra Virunga archive, was released in 2005. In 2000

Samba's presence at the Kenyan Jamhuri celebrations in London was one of the major highlights. His music is timeless, sounding as fresh after the 100th hearing it as it did the 1st. The lyrics, often containing advice or social commentary, are charming and interesting, the melodies  delightful, energetic and exuberant. 
In May 2004 Samba went on a 2-week concert tour in Tanzania after a 7-year absence. He performed with an all-star lineup of musicians based in Kenya and Tanzania.
Samba's latest album is Song and Dance (2006) on virungarecords featuring Bopol and other great members of Orchestra Virunga. They promoted the album and other great hits during a very energetic UK tour in March 2006. Samba was in Kenya for a major event, Ecofest, on 4th June 2006 alongside other well-known Kenyan musicians (see photo above).
During the US Presidential campaign in 2008 Samba recognized how proud Kenyans are of Barack Obama and released a specially composed song in his honor: 'Obama Ubarikiwe' (click to view the video) - translated as 'Obama Be Blessed.'
Samba and Orchestra Virunga
were back in East Africa early in 2009 as they performed in Nairobi and at Zanzibar's Sauti za Busara festival. Towards the end of 2009 Samba joined forces with World Wildlife Fund and released a free mp3 download 'Les Gorilles des Mantagnes' (The Mountain Gorillas). The song calls for support of endangered and rare mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park - appropriate of course for Samba's band called Orchestra Virunga!
To hear an 4-minute interview with Samba click here: