Orchestre Les Mangelepa

democratic-republic-of-congo / kenya

East African big band legends

Whenever those boffins make time travel a realistic prospect, you could do worse than set the controls for 1970s Africa. This was the time when the continent’s music particularly swung, dominated by legions of bell-bottomed big bands like Mali’s Les Ambassadeurs, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s Bembeya Jazz. Over in Kenya (via the Congo), Orchestre Les Mangelepa were also making the juke joints of Nairobi swing, powered along by their chiming multiple guitars. As with their contemporaries over in West Africa, in recent years they’ve discovered that audiences outside Africa are suckers for that evocative ’70s sound and, in the late afternoon of their career, have finally made their way to Europe. And last year’s new record – Last Band Standing on the ever-excellent Strut label – confirmed them to be a group of musical elders with plenty left in the tank.

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