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Earning a living through dance

The story of Malawi’s Kanda Bongo Man

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DECENT—Malawi’s Kanda Bongoman

The name Malawi’s Kanda Bongoman will always ring a bell to the generation that listened to the sounds of Ravers Band in the country.

He is an artist, who continues to enjoy his trade in the arts industry and has made himself a name through dancing.

While the talent has not yet earned the respect in the country, William Kamgoga, Malawi’s Kanda Bongoman, said the landscape is changing and that soon things will be different.

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Kamgoga got the name from Kanda Bongoman a Congolese soukous musician, who visited the country several times.

At one point, Kanda Bongoman was a popular name in the music circles and his music inspired a lot of musicians in the country.

Born in Inongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kanda Bongoman, became the singer for Orchestra Belle Mambo in 1973, developing a sound influenced by Tabu Ley. His solo career only started to take off after moving to Paris, France in 1979, where his music started to incorporate elements of then-vibrant zouk music popularised by Kassav (originating in the French West Indies). His first solo albums, Iyole in 1981 and Djessy in 1982, were hits. Kanda Bongo Man is known for the structural changes he implemented to soukous music.

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It was during his visit in the country that he ended up nicknaming Kamgoga Malawi’s Kanda Bongo Man because of his dance antics.

“What happened is that there was a show and he asked for dancers to come on stage and compete with some of his dancers. I happened to be one of those, who were courageous enough to go on stage and show the best of my dance moves. I impressed Kanda Bongoman as well as the audience,” he said.

Kanda Bongoman was impressed and did not hesitate but to give him the nickname that he has been using over the years during his performances.

Although he has graduated to vocals as well with, Kamgoga, said he has made it to where he is today because of his dancing skills.

“It is just unfortunate that in those days we did not have access to platforms but if we had social media for instance I could have been outside the country by now performing with different bands,” he said.

Kamgoga said having been nicknamed Malawi’s Kanda Bongoman, he changed his presentation such that he also started dressing like him.

“Up to now I dress like Kanda Bongman. There are dance moves that I have also copied from him. In those days soukous and kwasakwasa were the in thing and so to perfect myself, I used to watch music videos of Kanda Bongoman and other artists from Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.

He reveals that the time he was being nicknamed Malawi’s Kanda Bongoman, he was also given a hat.

“It was an expensive hat which I jealously guarded and did not want to lose it until later . I don’t know up to now where I lost it and it pains me,” Kamgoga said.

Despite losing the hat, Kamgoga still dresses decently just like Kanda Bongoman.

“I learned a lot from him especially when it comes to dressing and my linking up with him earned me respect from other foreign artists, who have had stints in Malawi such as Mbilia Bel and Yondo Sister. When these artists came here I performed with them and this is all because of my dancing antics,” he said.

Kamgoga said Ravers Band was still intact and that they perform at Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre.

The face of Ravers Band was Ethel Kamwendo Banda before she changed and went on to launch a solo career in gospel.

“I have worked with a number of bands such as Mitondo, Wepaz, Sapitwa and Love Aquarius before moving on with Ravers Band. It has been a long journey but I have improved with every performance,” he said.

“The country needs to change is mindset towards dancing. There are a lot of young people today, who are talented in dancing and all they need is to advance these skills and that can only happen if we can put up dancing schools and even introduce dancing in our school curriculum starting even at primary level. Our friends in other countries have professional dancers,” he said.

Kamgoga said despite having Ravers Band still intact, they have not managed to compose new songs.

“I am looking at that now but things have changed now, there is need to do something if one is to fit into the equation. I am trying to create a new style of dance and soon I will introduce it,” he said.

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