Benga music


Benga music

"There is also Benga in the province of Nyanga, see Benga, Gabon"

Benga is a genre of Kenyan popular music. It evolved between the late 1940s and late 1960s, in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi. In the 1940s, the African Broadcasting Service in Nairobi aired a steady stream of soukous, South African kwela, Zairean finger-style guitar and various kinds of Cuban dance music. There were also popular folk songs of Kenya's Luo and Kikuyu peoples.

The Luo of Kenya have long played an eight-string lyre called "nyatiti", and guitarists from the area sought to imitate the instrument's syncopated melodies. In benga, the electric bass guitar is played in a style reminiscent of the nyatiti. As late as the turn of the twentieth century, this bass in nyatiti supported the rhythm essential in transmitting knowledge about the society through music. Opondo Owenga of Gem Yala, the grandfather of Odhiambo Siangla, was known in employing music as a means of teaching history of the Luo.

In 1967, the first major benga band, Shirati Jazz, was formed by Daniel Owino Misiani. The group launched a string of hits that were East Africa's biggest songs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Shirati Jazz's biggest rival is Victoria Jazz, formed in 1972 by Ochieng Nelly Mengo and Collela Mazee. Despite many personnel changes, Victoria Jazz remained popular throughout the 1970s, when the Voice of Kenya radio station pushed an onslaught of East African pop. Another famous benga bend Migori Super Stars was formed in the mid 70s and was led by Musa Olwete which later split to form another popular benga band Migori Super Stars C with musicians such as Joseph Ochola (Kasongo Polo Menyo), Onyango Jamba, Ochieng' Denge denge and others.

Modern benga artists include Kapere Jazz Band, the rootsy Ogwang Lelo Okoth, and the American/Kenyan group Extra Golden.


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