Charlie Hart presents Samba Mapangala Unplugged, with Ben Mandelson
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Charlie Hart presents Samba Mapangala Unplugged, with Ben Mandelson


Band World Folk


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"How Sweet It Is"

“HOW SWEET IT IS: Maisha Ni Matamu delightfully provides the sort of sweetness that won’t harm your teeth or put pounds around your middle but fulfills your need for music to move you each and every day of your life. ”
Tom Orr - World Music Central
- World Music Central

"Life is Sweet"

Samba Mapangala is a veteran Congolese singer and a terrific composer. He also has a remarkable life, beginning with a youthful career in Congo, but continuing on to his tenure leading bands in Kenya, the UK, and recently, the United States. This history helps explain how Mapangala can call on the very best Congolese talent, and put together a release as rich, varied, and satisfying as this one. For all the changes over the years, Mapangala preserves a great consistency in his sound. He has a strong dedication to the lyricism and swing of rumba, also a welcome instinct to de-emphasize electronics and keyboards in favor of sharp, melodious guitar work and prominent use of brass, especially his signature accent instrument, the saxophone. ... --Banning Eyre -


It's Disco Time with Samba Mapangala (1982)
Evasion (1983)
Malako Disco (Earthworks LP 1983)
Safari 1988 (Kenyan cassette)
Vunja Mifupa 1989 (CBS Kenya IVA 071, cassette)
Paris-Nairobi 1990 (European cassette)
Virunga Volcano 1990 (Earthworks, CD)
Feet On Fire 1991(Stern's Africa STCD 1036, CD)
Karibu Kenya 1996 (Sun Music, CD)
Vunja Mifupa 1997 (Lusam 01, CD)
Ujumbe 2001 (Stern's / Earthworks STEW43CD)
Vunja Mifupa: Virunga Roots Vol. 1 2004 (Samba
Song and Dance 2006 (Virunga Records)
African Classics 2007 (Sheer Sound)
Live on Tour (Virunga Records digital album)
"Obama Ubarikiwe" 2008 (Virunga/digital single)
"Les Gorilles des Montagnes" 2009 (Virunga/digital single for WWF)
Maisha Ni Matamu (Life Is Sweet) 2011 (Virunga Records VR003 CD)
Chagua Chagua (Vote in Peace) 2012 (digital single)

Pre-1981: some 10 albums and numerous singles with previous band Les Kinois

Guest vocalist on Grammy-nominated album: Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Ritmo y Candela II: African Crossroads (Round World Records, 1997)



Samba Mapangala was born in 1955 in Matadi, in what was then known as the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo). His vocal talents were recognized early and he worked in various Kinshasa bands like Bariza, Super Tukina, Super Bella Bella, and Saka Saka. Traveling east with other musicians to 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. Named after a volcanic mountain range in central Africa, Virunga 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, infused with the earthier Kenyan style. Samba composes and sings in both Lingala and Kiswahili. The lyrics, often containing advice or social commentary, are charming and instructive, the melodies delightful, energetic and exuberant. His astounding voice has been described as "melting in the ears." Virunga as a whole has also gotten high praise: "The telepathy that runs between the bass, drums and rhythmic guitar players of this outfit is jaw-dropping..." (Ian Anderson, Folk Roots magazine).

Samba Mapangala and Virunga went to U.K. in April 1991 and played 23 concerts, causing a terrific buzz. After celebrated journeys through Africa, Europe and North America, the Nairobi-based Virunga formation last toured in 1997. Samba then settled with his family in Washington D.C, making a triumphant return in 2001 with the CD Ujumbe (The Message). In May 2004 Samba went on a 2-week concert tour in Tanzania after a 7-year absence, performing with an all-star lineup of musicians from in Kenya and Tanzania.
Virunga's first album was It's Disco Time with Samba Mapangala (1982), reissued as Virunga Volcano in 1990; followed by Feet on Fire (1991), Karibu Kenya (1995), recorded in Paris with Les Quatre Etoiles and other veteran musicians, Vunja Mifupa (1997) and Ujumbe (2001). Virunga Roots Vol. One, featuring songs from the Orchestra Virunga archive, came out in 2005.
The Song and Dance album was issued in 2006 on Virunga Records featuring Bopol Mansiamina among other stalwarts of Orchestra Virunga. They promoted the album and reprised many other favorites from his repertoire touring England in March 2006 and the U.S. and Canada in the summer of 2007, and then returning to England to perform at the prestigious WOMAD festival.
2008 brought the release of African Classics on the Sheer Sound label of South Africa. The internationally distributed album features selections from Samba's many past hits, plus three tracks never before available outside of East Africa. He recorded a song in praise of Barack Obama, "Obama Ubarikiwe," during the 2008 presidential election campaign, a digital-only free download that became an international hit and attracted much media coverage.
2009 was a very busy year for Samba: he performed at the Inaugural ball celebrating the election of President Obama for the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC, headlined the Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar and two concerts in Nairobi, and appeared at Kennedy Center, Washington DC, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia and Lincoln Center, New York City, as well as the Richmond (Virginia) Folk Festival. In cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund, he recorded a song, "Les Gorilles des Montagnes" to raise awareness of the endangered mountain gorillas of the Virunga National Park in Congo. Samba Mapangala & Virunga Live on Tour, a digital-only album, was also released in 2009. Interviews and features on him have been broadcast by Radio France Inter, BBC and National Public Radio in the U.S., and the Afropop Worldwide website.
Long-time fans of Samba's music with his revered Orchestra Virunga celebrated the release of a new album, Maisha Ni Matamu (Life Is Sweet) in 2011. Look for a European and African tour in summer 2013, and U.S. dates as well.
Samba's audience is very broad, loyal and international, comprising fans of East African, Congolese and world music, and his reputation as an exciting performer, composer and sublime vocalist is well established. He is a polished professional, conscientious and very easy to work with. His latest recordings, video clips, biography, photos, promotional materials, press clips and reviews, stage plot and tech rider can be provided on request.

MANAGEMENT: CC Smith, (734) 325-2565
U.S. BOOKING: Mel Puljic, Folklore Productions Agency (909) 522-9494;
EUROPEAN BOOKING: Dirk Feys, Tsahara Productions