Billboard Winterfest: Check Out Our Full Music Coverage From the Sundance Film Festival!
The son and grandson of drummer/percussionists, Bongo Man left school to perform with a Kinshasa band in 1973. Three years later, he performed with Orchestre Bella Mambo, one of Zaire's most popular dance bands. Moving to Paris in search of a larger audience in 1979, Bongo Man worked in a windowpane factory while building a solo career. His earliest success came with his album Iyole, recorded with Orchestre Bella Mambo and Diblo in 1981.
Performing at the WOMAD in England in 1983, he reached the audience he had hoped to find. In 1989, Bongo Man released his first American-distributed album, Kwassa Kwassa, which combined tracks from two French releases: "Lela Lela" and "Sai." He continued to expand his following with Zing Zong, dedicated to Soki Vangu and Soki Diazenza of Bella Bella, in 1991. Bongo Man's third U.S.-distributed album, Soukous in Central Park, released in 1993, captures the excitement of his live performances. With his 1998 album, Welcome to South Africa Mr. Kanda Bongo Man, Bongo Man emphasized the South African influences on his music. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi