Tuesday, June 17, 2014

M'Bilia Bel: One of Africa's greatest songsters (Under Construction)

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M'Bilia Mboyo-Marie Claire alias M'Bilia Bel was born in Kinshasa, Aug.14, 1959. 

By the age of 17, she dropped out of school to accept a position in chanteuse Abeti Maskini's Les Redoutables d'Abeti (Abeti's orchestra was a music school for future stars to pass through). Well-seasoned after 4 years, she joined Sam Mangwana for a number of concerts around Congo-Kinshasa (then called Zaire). Near the end of 1981 when the tour was about to finish, Mbilia auditioned for Tabu Ley Rochereau. Tabu Ley was impressed and hired her right away.

       Sam Mangwana on tour with M'Bilia Bel in Kinshasa

She sings her own rendition of the late Togolese's chanteuse Bella Bellow's song -- "Akambi"

Kamunga aka Mpeve ya Longo

M'Bilia's sexy alluring looks and sharp soprano voice re-energized Afrisa International and boosted recorded sales. The title "Mpeve ya Longo" (holy spirit) from 1982 discusses the domestic problems that women face. Although Tabu Ley wrote the song, having it sung from a woman's perspective was a ground-breaking moment in the male-dominated world of Congolese music. In 1983, she addressed the legend of male dominance with the classic "Eswi yo wapi" (Where did it hurt you?), a song that she and Tabu Ley wrote together about a man getting a taste of his own medicine. The performance won her "revelation of the year" honors from Kinshasa's music writers.

She went on to feature on other songs, such as Tabu Ley's Lisanga ya Bambanda and Dino Vangu's Quelle Mechancete

The next album was titled "Faux Pas". It talks about the wrong move.

Faux Pas
Nazali Mwasi

In the next following year, her and the band released "Loyenge". The title track "Loyenge" is a beautiful up-tempo groove that resonates such rapturous delight.

                                   Balle à terre.
                                                            Bameli Soy

The next album was called "Ba Gerants Ya Mabala". Let's give it a listen:

By this time, M'Bilia and the band are at the apex of their popularity recording hit after hit along with touring all over the world -- including the United States. In 1985, she and the band releases "dans Kenya et Cadence Mudanda". Let's give it a listen:

Nakei Nairobi
Cadence Mudanda
C'est Toi Que J'aime

Around the mid 80's, she officially marries Tabu Ley and was a mature & refined performer. In their concerts, M'Bilia was the primary attraction, and whenever she appeared, the crowd -- would go wild. M'Bilia was a talented (and still is) stage performer and often excited the crowd with her exceptional dancing abilities whenever she would join with the Rocherreautes (dancers) in their routine.

The next album she made was titled "Boya Ye". Boya Ye means "Kick him to the curve".

Tonton Skol. Skol is a Beer brand that is manufactured by Carl'sberg, AB InBev (South America), and Unibra (Africa). Musicians make songs about Skol and Primus (other beer) devoting their love for the beer brand. 
Shawuri Yako. Shauri Yako was originally a Nguashi Ntimbo's composition, which led to being a --massive hit in East Africa. It was re-recorded by Orchestre Super Mazembe, and of course M'Bilia & Tabu Ley. 
Yamba Ngai

The year is 1986. She released the album "Beyanga".
Mano Mongba
Mobali Na Ngai Wana. "Mobali Na Ngai Wana" means "This husband of mine". In this song, she praises her husband as being handsome, successful, and stresses the fact that even though, he has the opportunity to choose from any of Kinshasa's beautiful women -- he chose her. This song is also very popular in the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena in the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

The next album released is called "La Beaute D'Une Femme" = "The Beauty of a Woman".

In 1987, Tabu Ley recruited another female artist to accompany M'Bilia Bel. Kishila Ngoyi was her real name, but she was known from her artistic name -- Faya Tess. With this lineup, Afrisa embarked on a tour in the East Africa region that took place in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, ending with the album Nadina; the title track had both versions sung in Lingala and Swahili. The tour was well acclaimed by crowds. M'Bilia took center stage, dominating other Afrisa artists including Ndombe Opetum (RIP) who returned from TPOK Jazz. Back to their return in Kinshasa, rumors started to transpire about a disagreement between Tabu Ley and M'Bilia Bel. Apparently, there were also rumors  surfacing about both M'Bilia had a problem with Faya Tess, but both publicly denied.


The next LP is called "Contre Ma Volonte"= "Against My Will".
Frigo F.N.M.A.

In late 1987, M'Bilia quit the band to embark on a solo career. She momentarily joined with a Gabonese producer before departing to Paris. In Paris, she met up with guitarist Rigo Star Bamundele. Part 2 coming soon.


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