Tribute to Nelson Mandela by Tabu Ley Rochereau & M’bilia Bel

Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist
Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist
Tabu Ley Rochereau and M'bilia Bel
Tabu Ley Rochereau and M’bilia Bel

M’bilia Bel and Tabu Ley Rochereau once sung for the liberation of Nelson Mandela.  As we are celebrating both the king of Rumba, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time, Nelson Mandela, I only saw fit to share with you Sisi Mandela sung by the greats to celebrate another Great!

Tabu Ley Rochereau, a Baobab of African Music

Tabu Ley Rochereau
Tabu Ley Rochereau

Is it possible to talk about Congolese music without mentioning ‘Le Seigneur’ Rochereau (Lord Rochereau)? Is it possible to talk about Africans performing at the great Olympia hall in Paris, without mentioning the first African ever to have performed there? Is it possible to talk about Rumba, without talking about the impact Tabu Ley Rochereau had on Congolese, and therefore African music?

Tabu Ley Rochereau & M'bilia Bel in 'Loyenghe'
Tabu Ley Rochereau & M’bilia Bel in ‘Loyenghe’

I remember listening to his love ballads ‘Pitié’ on the radio, while growing up. I remember watching the gorgeous M’bilia Bel singing with Tabu Ley Rochereau.  Well, Tabu Ley Rochereau was one of those rare artists who have written/composed/performed/produced over 3,000 songs, and have more than 250 albums in his repertoire.  He is one of the few who could claim to have influenced entire generations both in music and in politics as he later became vice-governor of Kinshasa. Just listening to the interviews of the likes of Koffi Olomide, Lokua Kanza, M’Bilia Bel, Papa Wemba, tells us a lot about him.  When asked about the impact of Tabu Ley Rochereau on Couleurs Tropicales, Lokua Kanza (one of my favorites) replied: “Just like an American child can say that Nat King Cole rocked his childhood, Tabu Ley Rochereau rocked mine (Lokua’s),” and that of most Congolese children.  That was the impact of ‘Le Seigneur Rochereau’.

Tabu Ley Rochereau & The African Fiesta National
Tabu Ley Rochereau & The African Fiesta National

As Kinshasa, Congo, and Africa mourns Tabu Ley Rochereau, we will remember ‘Le Seigneur Rochereau’ by dancing and singing to his great tunes.  We will celebrate his life (Rochereau even wrote the song ‘Mokolo Nakokufa’ (the day of my death) a bit like Mozart composed Requiem) and influence on all of our lives (even when he stood against Mobutu with the title ‘Trop c’est Trop’).  Tabu Ley was a uniter (when Kenya banned Congolese music, he sang ‘Twende Nairobi’ with M’Bilia Bel), a decider, a crooner, a lover, an activist, a melodist, but above all, Tabu Ley Rochereau was a baobab!  Listen to ‘Pitié’ below, and do not forget to read these really good articles on his life on Philly.com, AFP, RFI Musique, and the best on Radio Okapi.

Why the name: Nairobi?

Nairobi in 2010
Nairobi in 2010

Have you ever fallen in love with a name? with a place? well… that is the feeling… when you hear the name Nairobi (the capital of Kenya) for the first time, it is like some beautiful girl you were always attracted to but could never get.  Well, the name Nairobi is quite far from that: it comes from the Maasai Enkare Nyrobi which means the place of cool waters, which is also the name for the Nairobi River which lent its name to the city.  Today, it is popularly known as the Green city in the sun… probably because of its lush-ness.

Flag of Kenya
Flag of Kenya

Nairobi hosts a natural reserve protected, the Nairobi National Park, within its borders.  It is also the capital hosting the most species of birds in the world.  Nairobi was originally built at the beginning of the 1900s as a railway link between Mombasa (on the coast of Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda) by the rail company Kenya Uganda Railway.  It was completely rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the burning of the original town.  Its location was chosen because of its central position between Mombasa and Kampala; it was also chosen because its network of rivers which could supply the British camp with water and its elevation which would make it cool for the British residential purposes.

Map of Nairobi
Map of Nairobi
Nairobi from Nairobi National Park
A girafe looking onto Nairobi, from Nairobi National Park

In 1905, Nairobi replaced Mombasa as capital of the British protectorate, and from then on grew tremendously around tourism, administration, and big game hunting.  Britons came to live in Nairobi for for game hunting.  In those times, the city quickly became the commercial centre for the colony’s coffee, tea, and sisal industry. Today, Nairobi is one of the most populous cities in Africa known for its beauty, for its versatility, and also for its slum Kibera.  The city of Nairobi is located on the eastern edge of the Rift valley, with the Ngong Hills located to the west of the city, and Africa’s two tallest mountains, Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro are located to the north and towards the southeast, respectively.  It was also the birthplace of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Enjoy the great Congolese singer M’Bilia Bel (she is also a beauty) singing about the beautiful Nairobi, Nakei Nairobi, a song written and composed by Tabu Ley Rochereau.

Have you ever been to Nairobi? What were your impressions?