M’bilia Bel

M’bilia Bel, a rumba singer and world music artist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was born in 1959. She is also known as “Queen of Congolese” and “Queen African Rumba”. After being first discovered by Sam Manguana, then Tabu Ley Rochereau, she rose to fame. This helped her gain confidence and take full control over her powerful soprano-voice. She also became one of the most prominent Congolese female singers. M’bilia Bel was a member of Tabu-ley Rochereau’s band (Afrisa International) in the 1980s. They have recorded many tracks together, as well as her solo albums. Due to the birth of her son with Tabu-ley, her mentor, she had to stop performing for a year. However, after a final album in 1988 with Tabu Ley, she moved to Paris. She began working with Rigo Star Bamundele, a guitarist. Between 1989 and 1990, she toured the United States, Europe, West Africa, and West Africa. M’bilia Bel was a beautiful combination of beauty, a strong soprano voice, great dancing/dancers and incredible agility on the stage. She won the hearts of music lovers all across Africa and the rest of the world. M’bilia Bel was Africa’s first transcontinental female diva. She was also the second most famous African female singer. South African Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Afrika, was a popular singer in the 1960s. However she did not have as many followers as M’bilia Bel. Mbilia Bel started her singing career at the age of 17 as a backing singer for Abeti Masikini, later with Sam Mangwana. When Tabu Ley became her protegee, she really burst onto the music scene. The combination of Tabu Ley’s genius in composition and Mbilia Bel’s angelic voice led to high sales for Afrisa records. The couple was phenomenal as performers, with many hits. Mbilia Bel’s 1981 debut song, “Mpeve Ya Longo”, was released by Afrisa. It means Holy Spirit in Kikongo. It was a touching song about spousal abuse. She sang the role of a woman who has been abandoned by her husband, and must raise her children alone. This song was extremely popular among Zaire’s women. Mbilia Bel’s 1982 debut album was extremely popular. It featured the title “Eswi yo wapi”, a song from the same album. This roughly translates into “Where did you hurt?” Tabu Ley and M’bilia Bel composed “,” M’bilia was awarded the award for best newcomer and Tabu Ley won the award. The rest of the songs on the same album, Tabu Ley’s Lisanga ya Bambanda, Kelhia and Dino Vangu’s Quelle Mechancete were also huge hits. This was when Afrisa International’s popularity began to soar. Songs that didn’t feature M’bilia Bel started to get more attention. Franco’s band TP.OK Jazz held a stranglehold on the music scene, but that was about to change as Afrisa was now able to match TP.OK Jazz in popularity, notoriety and appeal, due to this new sensation, now known as “The Cleopatra for Congolese music”. M’bilia Bel became the main attraction at Afrisa concerts in Congo and other places they visited. She often drew large crowds to her shows. She was a skilled stage performer who often captivated crowds with her amazing dancing abilities when she joined the Rocherettes (dancers). Mbilia bel married Tabu Ley in the mid-eighties. She was a mature and refined performer. Her songs remained a dominant part of the music scene. One of her songs was “Mobali na ngai wana”, roughly translating to “This Husband of Mine”. Tabu Ley, Roger Izeidi composed the song. It is an adaptation of a Kikongo traditional song. M’bilia Bel praises her husband for being handsome and successful. She also emphasizes the fact that he can choose from any Kinshasa woman he likes. Her reign in Afrisa saw other songs chart to the top, including “Balle a terre”, Bameli soy”, “ba gerants ya Mabala”, and “Bafosami”, Nakei Nairobi”, as well as “Paka Wewe”, “Ba jeux de Coin”, “Paka Wewe”, “Boya Ye”, “Yamba Ngai” ShaWuri Yako”, “Beyanga”, “La Beaute D’une Femme”, and many others… Tabu Ley hired another female artist in 1987 to join M’bilia Bel. Although she was called “Kishila Ngoyi”, her real name was “Faya Tess”. Afrisa was joined by this new group on a tour through East Africa. It included Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The album Nadina featured Swahili and Lingala versions of the title song. The crowds were very happy with the tour. M’bilia Bel was the main act, taking over from Ndombe Opetum, who returned from T.P OK Jazz. Rumours began to circulate about a split between Tabu ley, M’bilia Bel, upon their return from Kinshasa. Their couple (Tabu-Ley-Mbilia Bel) apparently got into a misunderstanding over a private or personal conflict. Both of them often denied any problems when they were interviewed by different journalists across the country. M’bilia Bel left the band in 1988 to pursue a solo career. After briefly joining a Gabonese producer from Libreville, she left for Paris to join guitarist Rigo Starr. Her first album, “Phenomene”, was released with Rigo Star and was a great success in Kinshasa and abroad. Desole, 8/10 Benedicta and Yalowa were her next releases. They had limited success. The popularity of Afrisa international as a band dropped significantly after M’bilia Bel left. Tabu Ley seemed to have lost his inspiration for composition, as evidenced by the significant drop in albums. Mbilia Bel’s career began to decline after she left Afrisa. She also chose to spend almost six years in Paris to explore European horizons after her absence from her home country. M’bilia Bel decided in 1996 to leave Congolese Rumba and to return home. She approached Maestro Suzy Kasaya, a well-known figure in Congolese Music and a former collaborator with Tshala Muana, a Congolese Diva. M’bilia Bel, and Suzy both released a CD with 10 tracks called “Welcome” in 2001. It was a huge hit and earned her the Kora Award for Best Female Vocalist (Central) of the African Continent. Tshala muana was awarded the same award the year before. M’bilia Bel, and Suzy Kaseya, released their second collaboration CD, “Belissimo”, in 2004. The album was not a great success. Even though she used different vocal techniques like Melisma or Belting to project another dimension to her voice, the whole local Congolese media accused her of neglecting the promotion and refusing to approach them that same year. M’bilia Bel was subsequently relegated to the title of Queen of Congolese Rumba. With the addition of Cindy Le Coeur and Mj 30, the competition was becoming more difficult. Mbilia Bel gained more experience in the showbiz and things improved with her old-school savoir-faire. She returned to Lutumaba Simaro, “One of the Congolese Rumba Masters Guitarists”, in 2009 to perform his song “Mobali Ya Bato”. M’bilia Bel was back on the road again with her career. The next year, she took some time to travel to Canada and Colombia for concerts. She was especially welcomed in Colombia in Cartagena by the mayor who gave her the “Key”. M’bilia Bel’s CD “The Queen”, a collection of 13 songs, was released in 2011. It included “Immigration fatale”, a song written by Nyboma about the devastating and fatal consequences of African children crossing the Mediterranean Sea to seek a better life in Europe. Her latest work was a mix of traditional African Rumba, Soukous and Hip Hop as well as Afrobeat, Rap, Hip Hop and other modern elements. In 2013, she released “Pantheon”, her 2017 album is called “signature8646”, which includes all of the above styles. M’bilia Bel, a former student of Abeti Masikin to-Tabu Lee Rochereau, is now dedicated to helping young adults in Kenya and Africa learn African Music (Congolese rumba). Wikipedia

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