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So here it is Acolyte

East African rhumba circa 1970/1980 Les Wanyika – Kasuku

As always, a pocket history. Any misktakes in this piece are entirely mine, I simply ramble on and narrate history as I have understood it from my research.

Les. Wanyika- Amigo

Les Wanyika” is just one of the Wanyika bands that centers around Omar Shabani, Issa Juma and John Ngereza whom along with Peter and George Kinyonga make up the Kinyonga brothers. Some of you may have already made an aquintance with John Ngereza from one of my first post rhumba posts a couple of weeks ago.

Some history first: Peter and George Kinyonga were originally footsoldiers in the Jamuhuri Jazz/Arusha Jazz in the 1950/1960s before they decided to make a run on their own. They moved to Nairobi which they then made their stomping grounds. They eventually formed the very well known – at least in Kenya – Wanyika band popularly known as “Simba Wanyika.

Les. Wanyika was an eventual offshoot from Simba Wanyika. Another off-shoot – “Super Wanyika” – have been credited with the kiiller track “Shillingi” that I also posted a while back. There have been more than 8 Wanyika bands.

Some of these include:
– Jamhuri Jazz Band was founded in Tanganyika in the late 1950s.
– Arusha Jazz Band was founded in Arusha, Tanzania in 1970.
– Simba Wanyika derived from the Arusha Jazz Band in 1971 by Wilson & George Kinyonga.
– Les Wanyika that was formed by disgruntled Simba Wanyika members – at one point, they called themselves Les Moto-Moto.
– George Kinyonga quit Les. Wanyika in 1978 (I think) to form Orchestra Jobiso. He reconciled with the group and rejoined them shortly afterwards.
– The Super Wanyika Stars was formed by the members of Orchestra Jobiso who were left behind when George Kinyonga rejoined Les Wanyika.

Apart from these groups, at various times, the Kinyonga brothers and other original members of Simba Wanyika including guitarist Abu Omar and vocalist Juma Issa have been in various Wanyika derived groups including “Simba Wanyika Original”, “MAS System”, “Mavalo Kings” and “the Everest Kings”.

So, if I understand this right, the Les Wanyika genealogy is something like

Jamuhuri Jazz -> Arusha Jazz -> Simba Wanyika -> Super Wanyika -> Les Wanyika

[edit]I recently received an email from Doug Paterson who corrected me on this genealogy of the Wanyika groups. Doug was the producer on many of the Wanyika tracks and on other great tracks such as MV Mapenzi, Karubandilka and Sigalame.

You wrote:

“Les. Wanyika was an eventual offshoot from Simba Wanyika. Another off-shoot – “Super Wanyika” – have been credited with the kiiller track “Shillingi” that I also posted a while back. There have been more than 8 Wanyika bands.”

No. Shillingi is by Simba Wanyika.

“Jamuhuri Jazz -> Arusha Jazz -> Simba Wanyika -> Super Wanyika -> Les Wanyika”

I think it really goes

“Simba Wanyika -> Les Wanyika -> Issa Juma leaves and forms Super Wanyika.”

It looks like you used Wikipedia for some of your information but I don’t think it’s correct. Look through this discography and especially the comments interspersed between. I think this is probably more accurate than the Wikipedia article.


Thanks for the info Doug. And thank you so much for helping this music come to life.
[end edit]

Just between us, “Shillingi” is one tight tight TIGHT track, right?

But back to business.

The Wanyika bands were primarily live performers working the night club and bar circuit in Kenyan and Tanzanian citites. They played rumba and rumba only centered around a rhythm and/or bass guitar with smooth crooning vocals. The fomula worked very very well and all the various Wanyika bands (and their many imitators and off-shoots) were in great demand for live performances right through the 70s and 80s.

Their 1983 track “Shillingi” however saw Super Wanyiki explode into the European scene which is no mean feat. Even more astounding is that it went gold in Kenya (which is 50,000 records in Kenya I think, I know its different, maybe 500,000, in the US). This was just legal sales, there were multiple pirate copies traded and sold on the black market.

The very early 1990s however saw the slow disintegration of all the bands mainly due to the fact that they were not able to keep it together due to travel regulations and work permits that made it difficult for them to work in Kenya. They were also under alot of financial pressure since the music business does not allow even successfull musicians to live like kings in East Africa. John Ngereza passed away in February 2000, an event many consider as marking the symbolic demise of the Wanyika bands.

AOB: Anyone who has a copy of “Singalame”, please please please HOOK A BROTHER UP!!! Thank you already!!

As a bonus for those of you brave/bored/foolish or eager enough to read this far:
East African rhumba circa 1970/1980 Les Wanyika – Ubaya wako


Click here for a list of all the other pre-1990 East African music posts that I have posted in the past.

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22 Responses

  1. Steve,
    LOL (!) @ your response to my comment on the previous post.

    Great write up on Les Wanyika, plus we get a bonus today, and a good one at that!

    Thanks buddy!

    You are welcome Whis.

    So, you are on the hook until next week . . .


  2. JKE says:

    Thx, the music just made my day! :-)

    Glad you like the music kikuyumoja, check back in next Friday for more.


  3. acolyte says:

    Thanks for the track!Ah, the nostalgia…

  4. Malulu Reuben says:

    Been in Poland all this time and never thought I could ever hear the songs which brings back all those memories of nyumbani!! Is it possible for you to get some more Les Wanyika, like “Singalame, Natafuta Mtoto, Jeniffer, and Zainabu” I’ll be delighted!!
    Keep on keeping Man!!!

  5. […]  + Hey people, I found out whom my visitor from Poland is, welcome Reuben and thanks for taking the time to check out this blog. […]

  6. […] Two variations of the same track this weekend. I asked for a copy of Singalame a while back and a friend was kind enough to oblige with not one but two versions of the track. They are both Issa Juma & Les Wanyika covers of perennial hit. […]

  7. gilly says:

    Thanks Steve and Doug for the Discography of the East Africa’s own giants ever, the Wanyikas. Can you please post a number by Wanyika Stars, JESSICA. It is a brilliant peace of art composed by John Ngereza. Sauti zao zinaniacha hoi. Not to forget the trampets and sax. Leta uhondo!

  8. gilly says:

    Hi Steve,

    The song JESSICA by John Ngereza I asked for was recorded by the Wanyikas but using a different name, Ochestre LES MOTO-MOTO. Im patiently waiting!

    Asante sana.


    I did some research and I cannot seem to find this track or a discography that refers to it. Could you point me to one somewhere (or even cover art) that will make the process of finding the track a little easier?

    – Steve

  9. […] To wind down, a guitar/horn piece in the classic tradition (classic here being the rumba recipe), Les Wanyika’s “Paulina“. You can bone up on your Les Wanyika history here. […]

  10. Doug says:

    A quick correction in the [edit] above regarding my production activities…
    Much as I would have loved to, I didn’t produce any Wanyika music. I had one misguided attempt in the late 80s with Les Wanyika. I knew John Ngereza pretty well and we did a studio session recording 80 minutes of great Les Wanyika music. But the recording was not great so I never released it. Most of the songs were later recorded for Polygram including Safari Sio Kifo. At this same time, I was a partner in Ahadi records in the 1980s and we did release a lot of Tanzanian music in Kenya on vinyl LPs (Karubandia was my first). Some of that music was later released in the USA as the Mlimani Park CD: “Sikinde” and the “Muziki wa Dansi” CD by various Tanzanian artists.

  11. gilly says:


    According to http://biochem.chem.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~endo/EAWanyika.html,
    the song was recorded under Editions Chris Tetemeko [Nairobi] Chris-30) .

    Thanks for the info and the link Gilly.

    I am still keeping an eye out for your track.

    – Steve

  12. Sam Mbugus says:

    Who was the lead singer in Zaina song by les wanyika

    Going right to the Oracle who might be the only source for this question, we find:

    1995 – Les Wanyika
    Fitina (Cassette; Matunda Productions [Nairobi] NYIKA LES 002)
    [A] Fitina / Mke Wangu / Kawaii
    [B] Zaina / Maria / Kubali Kosa

    Not very informative.

    Maybe Doug can help?

    – Steve

  13. gilly says:

    The lead singer of zaina is the late John Ngereza. He was also the composer and arranger. Here is part of the lyrics:

    Nimekuja leo niombe msamaha kwako mama; kutokana na visa vilivyokupata sababu yangu – imebidi niombe radhi nikiwa mimi ndiye mwenye kosa kwako zaina e mtoto wa Mwanza, Kaza moyo nirudie kama zamani. Siku ile ya kwanza tulipokutana mimi nawe , nilitoa ahadi zisizo za kweli kwako mama, – nilisema hakuna mwingine ni wewe fahari ya moyo wangu mama zaina e nilijisahau kama penzi la uongo halina maisha…………………………………………………

    Stve! this song touches the foundation of my heart!

    Thanks for the kind comments Gilly and the info on Ngereza.Between this guy and the Kinyongas, the basically have the core of Kenyan rumba sewn up and they also move me almost to tears.

    On the week of the 22nd, I will post a Jobiso track that for me is the essence of rumba.

    – Steve

  14. Willie says:

    Hi, Im putting together a compilation album of past and present East african music. Doug, would you know who wrote the song karubandika within the band or for that matter who holds the right to allow us licensing???

  15. Cassian says:


    For coming in with Shilingi yaua, kweli unanikumbusha wana wa Nyika. Amazing, amazing stuff. Keep it up man!

  16. Sam Mbugus says:

    I have been lookin for da song Zaina by les wanyika for a long tyme. Steve can you please help me with it (or Gilly). I really need it.

  17. gilly says:

    Hi Sam .

    Lookin for da song Zaina.

    Im very sory to say that i lost the only tape i had, bought long River Road in Nairobi in 2003. Im also looking for that tape! may be steve or somebody else can help. Pole sana my friend.

  18. sebby bey says:

    Though the website is not about he songs, but i have most of the songs with me mp3. mail me and will look in my database and respond back on where to download it, will give you an ftp address. This songs have message im telling you.

  19. Wanyika fan says:

    Stil waiting for directions to the song “Safari ya Samburu”

    Any one? help please!

  20. muhina says:

    i,m sorry to say that but i ahve been looking this song a long time becouse i lot my tap cassettes for pole pole Issa Juma &waanyika

  21. mhina says:

    i,m sorry to say that but i ahve been looking this song a long time becouse i lot my tap cassettes for pole pole Issa Juma &waanyika

  22. Stephen Akaranga says:

    Dear Steve,Doug, Gilly and fans of lovely wanyikas. I have many tapes that could play for 2 day or even more non stop. If you are interested please get in touch.
    Dr. Akaranga Stephen

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