Tag Archives: roots international

Les Mangelepa at 40

Words are read but music is heard so it is hard to write fluently about a musical experience.


But this story is about more than just music.

Since November 2011, Rashid of Roots International has hosted a live music gig at Choices on Baricho Road dubbed Thursday Nite Live.


A glimpse on Nairobi Now that gives me the ‘in’ into Nairobi’s art scene revealed that the legendary Orchestra Les Mangelepa would be performing on Thursday 16 June.

I battled Nairobi traffic, got to Choices at 7.45pm and snagged a good seat that would enable me to get a good view of the stage and also of the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of young and old itself a testimony to the endearing and enduring nature of the music of Les Mangelepa.

The gig was set to start at 8pm but in typically Kenyan fashion it did not. Not complaining though as I got to overhear a conversation that was as funny as it was informative.

Three members of the ORIGINAL Orchestra Les Mangelepa can boast of forty years of marching to their step.

The three are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.

The band members of Les Mangelepa walked into Choices and their humble bearings meant that many did not recognize they were the stars of the night. From my vantage position I observed them, picked out the trio of legends whose dressing revealed they are sapuers.


At a quarter past eight Kenyan cartooning legend Paul “Maddo” Kelemba went up on stage and wore a new hat. That of the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ketebul Music which is a not for profit organization that seeks to curate the music traditions of East Africa.

Maddo proceeded to give his audience an education on the origin of Les Mangelepa. His mastery of Lingala and the in’s and out’s of Rhumba in Kenya was a marvel to behold.

After the impromptu lesson it was time to invite Les Mangelepa to the stage. Maddo started with the new band members before completing with the three living legends – Kabila wa Kabanze, Nzazi Kalenga and Kaniki Lutulu.


Les Mangelepa then gave a brilliant performance. The first hour went by so first. The dance moves of the three oldies were breathtaking. The trio then took a 10 minute break and performed for another hour getting the crowd on their feet.

Personally I was blown away. It was wonderful listening to hits like ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Nyako konya’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa LIVE.


Rhumba bands fragment every so often so for a band to mark its 40th birthday is an AMAZING feat.

Félicitations Orchestra Les Mangelepa!

The legendary band is marking 40 years in the music scene with a tour of Europe.

Hope they will celebrate their four decades in music with a performance in Nairobi West.

Long live Muziki ya Bakulutu.




Elani at Choices

I love Elani and make it a point to attend most of their gigs. This past Thursday found me at Choices enjoying an evening of Elani music courtesy of Roots International.

I had spent the evening in Hurlingham and getting from there to Baricho Road via public means proved to be quite an adventure. I almost acted out lost in the city but I finally figured out how to connect and get to Baricho Road without getting to town.

It has been ages since I stepped into Choices or as it was popularly known KaChoi. There was a time when this pub was the king of Nairobi’s rave scene. Suffice it to say, that time has passed. I discovered that Choices has aged gracefully and there was a decent crowd of yuppies for whom I guess it’s their local.

After I snagged myself a great seat which afforded me a three-way view of the stage, the entrance and the crowd I chatted up Abdi Rashid who is the man behind Roots International as I checked out the ladies who were running a Barcadi Breezer promotion. They certainly looked hot in their slinky red mini dresses.

Elani got on stage and it was interesting observing them working to win the crowd who clearly had no clue who they were and who had other plans for the evening. After a shaky start, the trio finally got their groove and rocked!

The songs that jazzed me were Milele which is a wonderful love ballad, Hatua which extols the youth to take action and which they performed as an tongue-in-cheek audition for Shuga 3, Peperuka which is a soulful song that talks of losing a loved one and to close the first set was Mahindi.

During their break I chatted with Wambui Ngugi, one third of the Elani trio and she gave me a heads up on what Elani have been up to since I last chatted with THEM.

They are now signed up to Penya Africa and they are currently putting final touches on their much awaited album. Tentatively they plan to finish studio work by end of this month and possibly launch in August 2012.

As a build up to the album launch, Elani will be seeking to perform for folk who have not heard them before so as to expand their fan base. Thursday’s gig at Choices was the first of such gigs with the next one possibly being at Adele’s Open Mic on 28th April.

Wambui also introduced the guys who back-up Elani. Allan Wanjohi on Percussion, Martin Asembo on the Keys and the very young (he is nineteen) Thomas “Infant” Olang’o on the Guitar.

Sound for the gig which was excellent (a rarity in Nairobi) was sorted by John who told me he is a sound engineer for Sauti Sol and also for Elani.

Elani then got back on stage and by now the crowd had warmed up to them sufficiently and was quite attentive. As a twist to their performance they invited Tusker Project Fame’s Wendy Kimani to grace the stage and she performed her new single, Rumor. In a further twist to the plot, Wendy invited Sauti Sol’s Bien to the stage and together they did a brilliant duet that had the crowd on their feet. Imagine my shock when I learn the duet has no title and has not been recorded.

Elani then got into their second set of the evening and they are folks who truly immerse themselves into the performance and give 101%. They are quite a sight to behold and their energy is infectious. In no time they had the crowd humming along and Choices was buzzing.

Songs that caught my ear were a cover of Sema’s Mwewe, a catchy Pale Pale that had guys joining them on stage to dance and another of their all time crowd hits, Bobea. The crowd was still demanding for more when Elani wrapped their set and the trio had to indulge them with an encore.

It was an evening very well spent. Totally worth my while.

Thanks to Roots International for giving artistes a space and taking music to the people. They have a different artistes performing every Thursday from 8-11pm at Choices. Entry is free.



%d bloggers like this: