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Remmy Ongala

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Some of the most exciting sounds in Africa have been created by Zaire-born and Dar El Salaam-based guitarist and vocalist Remmy Ongala and his seven-piece band, Orchestra Super Matimila. Fusing the melodic drive of Soukous, East African guitar styles, and Tanzanian rhythms, Ongala and the group accomplish their goal of inspiring audiences with their intellectual dance music. While his songs focus on poverty, injustice, death, AIDS, governmental corruption, and romantic passion, Ongala uses his melodic guitar playing and soulful vocals to lead Orchestra Super Matimila through an experience of infectious rhythms. Born in the Kivu region of eastern Zaire, Ongala initially attracted attention as drummer and vocalist for the rumba band Bantu Success. Leaving the group, in 1966, he devoted two years to his family before returning to music as a guitarist. As a sideman, he worked with such Zairian bands as Success Mwachame, Mickey Jazz, and Grand Mike Jazz. Leaving Zaire, in 1968, he accepted a job with Dar El Salaam-based Soukous band, Orchestra Makassy. Launching his solo career in 1980, Ongala joined Orchestra Matamila, a group that featured four guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and a horn section of saxophone and trumpet. Within a few months, Ongala had become the group's leader. The first two albums recorded under Ongala's supervision -- Mambo and Songs For The Poor Man -- were recorded during Recording Week at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios. Ongala and Orchestra Super Matamila's 1997 album, Sema, included tracks that were recorded in Sweden and the United Kingdom in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and tracks recorded at Radio Tanzania in 1984. As of June 2000, Orchestra Super Matamila features Basil Osenga Ipopoliop (solo guitar), Lawrence Chuki Limbanga (drums), Kapepula Mukundi (bass guitar), Ayas Ayas Hasani (rhythm guitar), and Kawele Multimanwa (rhythm and solo guitars). ~ Craig Harris

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Birth Name:

Ramathan Mtoro Ongala


1947 in Kindu, Zaire

Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s