So here it is Acolyte
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” 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
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.
“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.
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:
Les Wanyika – Ubaya wako