Sam Mangwana will certainly enter the pantheon of soukous’ greatest vocalists, which already honors Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco. But unlike his mentors, he embraced a soukous style that imbibed the gentle, rollicking rumba rhythms of the Caribbean (especially Cuba). Perhaps, his affinity for Angolan music and its Portugese inflections also caused Mangwana to embrace European and New World influences. Unlike his soukous predecessors, his arrangements tend toward a softer, more acoustic and less electronic sound.
Born in Kinshasa in 1945 of Angolan parents, his father was a shopkeeper and his mother sang at a social club for Angolan women. He attended a boarding school run by Salvation Army missionaries and sang in the school’s choir. Almost by accident, he met Tabu Ley on the street one day and before long he joined Tabu Ley’s Africa Fiesta. After singing with Tabu Ley for ten years, he branched out and performed with Franco and other prominent Kinshasa bands. In the 1970s, he moved to the Ivory Coast and teamed up with the musicians who later went on to form another seminal African ensemble, Les Quatres Etoiles. Because of his musical “wanderings,” he is known as La Pigeon Voyageur.
Leopardmannen.no characterizes Mangwana’s topical interests in his lyrics as:
He usually sings about love, in songs where he tells a particular story. But his lyrics also have political tendencies. Songs like “Canta Mocambique”, “Soweto” and “Zimbabwe” pay tribute to the struggle against colonialism. A true Pan African, Mangwana’s dream is “an Africa without guns, where democracy will not be submitted to the rise and fall of the dollar.”
Mangwana’s Fati Mata (hear it) is one of the fine compositions on Rumba Music. It begins with Mangwana’s slow, mellifluous melodic line (as one would expect in a traditional soukous introduction). But instead of charging full speed ahead into a blindingly fast and joyful soukous guitar frolic, the song maintains its sweet, lilting tempo adding a touch of that spicy rumba rhythm for which he is so well-known. All told, this is pure joy, pure soul and pure love.
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