Who is Kanda Bongo Man?

You’ve all heard the news by now … Kanda Bongo Man is coming to the backyard of Bluestone Brewing Company this summer and we just can’t wait! But who is this man that we all speak of? Let me explain …

Kanda Bongo Man Live Music Pembrokeshire African Soukous Music

Kanda Bongo Man (whose Father is also called Bongo Man by the way) was born in 1955 in the Belgian Congo, now Zaire. Born into a musical family, nephew of celebrated Zairean singer-songwriter Jean Bokelo, Kanda was destined for great things from the very start.

After leaving school aged 18, he joined a local band and enjoyed playing the fast-paced Rhumba music that was popular at the time. After a few years of moving between bands he decided that it was time to move on and so he set his sights on Paris which, at the time, was a great place for aspiring Francophone African musicians. It was in 1979 that Kanda Bongo Man arrived in Paris, but it wasn’t all glitz and glam to begin with. He worked in a window pane factory when he first arrived and needed a job, but it was here that he met a record producer and his first big break came in 1981 with the release of his album Iyole.

Kanda Bongo Man was beginning to make a name for himself, people were starting to recognise and enjoy his music. In 1983 he was invited to play at WOMAD festival in the UK and this is where things really took off for him. Kanda sings in Lingala (a Bantu language used by over 8 million people as a lingua franca in northern parts of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and puts a high speed spin on the traditional Soukous music. By speeding up the tempo of his music, he gave the world the Kwassa Kwassa dance rhythm which he is now famous for.

So how does a musician as well-known & influential as Kanda Bongo Man end up playing live at a family brewery in rural North Pembrokeshire? Simon Turner is the answer! Simon, owner and MD of the company, is Kanda Bongo Man‘s biggest fan. It’s rare that we go a day in the office without his music being played at some point, and every time Simon’s phone rings – it’s Kanda Bongo Man as the ringtone! Simon first heard his music on John Peel‘s radio show, and has been an avid fan ever since. Whilst travelling through Senegal & Ghana with his Wife Kerry (farmer at Tyriet farm, home of the Brewery), they saw first-hand how popular Kanda’s rhythms really are. Any mention of his name, and all the locals became excited, they just couldn’t believe that we had him booked to play here. You only have to Youtube his name to find people all over the world moving to his music, his infectious songs will get even the most reluctant of dancers up and about.

Last year, we welcomed Kanda’s band – Kasai Masai – to the Brewery and they were a big hit! Despite a slightly rainy evening, the crowds danced all night and we were sure that we wanted them back. However, this year, Simon was determined that they wouldn’t come back alone … a few conversations back and forth and hooray! Kanda Bongo Man was booked.

Kanda Bongo Man has a long list of stages that he has played on across the globe. Stages that include Glastonbury Festival, Central Park, New York & WOMAD festival . That might put things into perspective when deciding whether or not to buy tickets to see him at The Brewery this Summer, it is not very often that you will find such a superstar on our line up. A chance not to be missed.