Sunday, 19 December 2010

Remmy Ongala (1947-2010)*

Sadly, on December 13th, the African music scene lost one of it's greats, Remmy Ongala. Ongala was a respected soukous (Congolese rumba) musician, who helped transform the Tanzanian music scene with the help of his band Orchestra Super Matimila.

Ongala had a passion for speaking out about racism and social injustice. He was often referred to as "The Doctor" for his reputation as a defender of the people. Born in Congo, he began playing in Tanzania in his thirties, writing songs that criticized elite society. However, as his music gained in popularity he was eventually granted Tanzanian citizenship.

Despite growing ill in recent years, he continued to write songs as concerned with social injustice as ever. One song, banned by Radio Tanzania, that urged men to wear condoms was featured on an AIDS awareness album, Spirit of Africa (2001).

Producing music that got a listener to both dance and think, Ongala had a talent that African music lovers will sorely miss.

An essential playlist in tribute to Ongala should include:

"No Money, No Life" (Mambo)

"Kifo" (Songs for the Poor Man)

"Karola" (Songs for the Poor Man)

Remmy Ongala: Tanzania music fans mourn 'the Doctor', BBC News
Remmy Ongala Dies, AllVoices
Remmy Ongala, Afropop Worldwide

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