To do this article, I had to be listening to something as is a culture to me. Guess what I chose this time around? Simaro Massiya Lutumba’s Mabele (Ntoto.) For those eligible to be called old school, they must know what I am talking about. For those who are worried about what alien I am talking about, a time is coming when I am sure you will.

But did you know the origin of rumba music? It is not the Congo as most of us would answer. This genre of music originated in Cuba in the 1800s. For your information, if there is a party in Cuba, be sure there will be rumba music. Fact; rumba used to be a Cuban slang for party.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the genre found a home in the African continent in Congo. And this can easily be why most of us can easily say the music originated in the Central African Country of Congo.  Speaking of rumba and 90% of the musicians we can name from the head will be Congolese.

I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000 knowing if anything was music, then it had to be rumba. That was the thing for the evening moments. Of course, there were the reggae roots from Jamaica and Zilizopendwa locally, but if anything, we felt prouder to have rumba.

So, recently I was listening to the old rumba on one of the local stations and a certain young lady asked me what is it that fascinated me with the music. I looked at the lady wondering If what she saw in me was dismay or rather appreciating good music of the old time.

You see, rumba is so electrocuting that in no time, it spread its wings and found a home in East Africa as Lingala and Soukous. Despite all these developments, Congo will forever remain the cradle land of rumba music.

 The 1950s to 1970s were some of the most eminent times in the development of rumba music. This was the time when the likes of Franco Luambo and Grand Kalle ruled the airwaves with their bands. TP Ok jazz band under Franco was the king of the time.

With time, the likes of Tabu Ley Rochereau went on to form their bands. With progress others like Papa Wemba and Sam Mangwana joined in and made their bands as well and as such made themselves names with big hits of the day.

Other notable musicians of the day were Tshala Muana, Wenge Musica, Koffi Olomide, and Nico Kasanda. However, younger musicians from Congo and the rest of Africa went on to play faster-paced soukous with a tinge of rock and roll.

Locally in East Africa, Simba Wanyika, Les Wanyika and Super Wanyika were notable players in the Rumba music space. Others were Super Mazembe, Les Mangelepa, Orchestra Makassy and the band Orchestra Virunga under Samba Mapangala.

Did you know?

Did you know that in December 2021, UNESCO added the Congolese rumba to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity? In a statement, UNESCO pointed out the integral role Congolese music was playing in carving out the Congolese identity and means of promoting intergenerational cohesion and solidarity.

No wonder I noted that this is a genre that has transpired generations and is not about to go down any time soon. Rumba will be around for as long as we can be here and if anything, it is simply becoming stronger and better.

As we age, we realize that there is a special place inside of us that is specially kept for rumba music. A place that cannot be poked out but stays there until the right time and opportunity arise every once in a while if not for a very long time.

As I am putting a full stop to this writing, Sam Mangwana’s Bana Ba Cameroun is slowly playing in the background to remind me that those of my generation better start thinking of putting their houses in order because we are the generation of the next half-century.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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