Paul Mbenna and the Okapi Guitar Band

Paul Mbenna and the Okapi Guitar Band


An East African vocal star joins local afropop experts to revive the classic dance band music of Africa.


Paul Mbenna, aka Mister Paul, was a chart-topping pop star before he left Tanzania for Australia in 2007. The song for which he is best known, throughout East Africa, is called "Zuwena".

Sung in Swahili and set to his homeland's distinctive bongo flava rhythm, its tale of tragedy-struck love rode the airwaves of Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique to widespread acclaim.

Now resident in Sydney, he has teamed up with the Okapi Guitar Band to create a live show direct from the nightclubs of Dar Es Salaam.

The Okapi Guitar Band is Australia's longest surviving Afropop group, described by Stani Goma (3PBS-FM) as 'an amazing group', 'proving that music has no frontiers' for their deep knowledge of African guitar band styles. Their repertoire ranges from Zimbabwean chimurenga to Kenyan classics, and from Tuareg desert blues to West African hi-life and afrobeat.

African music with an Australian accent!

"Our approach to African music parallels the adoption of American blues by British beat groups in the 1960s. We think African musical styles are eminently applicable to modern Australian life and strive to develop a local version of these styles."

Since 2007, using the name Okapi Guitars, the band includes Chris Bright (drums, vocals), Sigi Huber (bass guitar, vocals), Bernhard Huber (guitar, vocals) and John Laidler (guitar, vocals).

In 2011 the band celebrated it's 25th anniversary.

"... Chris Bright on drums and Sigi Huber on bass keep the vibe driving and bubbling, while the twin guitars of Huber and Laidler shimmer, sparkle and percolate over the top. The vocal harmonies on the African covers are particularly strong, sailing rhythmically over the other intricately woven layers and lifting the energy of the music even higher."


Major CD releases:

Choko Choko (1998; re-released 2005)
Senor Goat (1999)
Westie (2000)
Blue Kigara (2002)
Radio Free Zimbabwe (2004)
Haram Homebrew (2007)
Live@CutSnake (2008)
Plenty (2011)

Other releases:

"Sick" a song from the "Blue Kigara" CD was included on "Copy Me, Remix Me" compilation from Creative Commons
Cover version of Lou Reed's "Vicious" included on the tribute CD "After Dark" (2003) from Wampus Multimedia.

Limited edition CD of Latin songs "Los Grandes Exitos del Conjunto Okapi" released 2004.

"Kizungu", from the 1996 album "Salty Banana" was featured in the Australian motion picture "Dance Me To My Song" (1998).

(Most CDs available at CDBaby

Set List

Two sets of 45 minutes to an hour each.
We play for the dancers.