Congolese songbird Mbilia Bel hints at retirement

Congolese musician Mbilia Bel, who flew into Nairobi on Monday evening to a rousing welcome at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, dropped a hint about slowing down and retiring from staging live concerts.

The songstress was upbeat about her concert tour that will see her reunite with her Kenyan fans and win over new ones during her two shows in Nairobi and Kisumu, and charity engagements that will see her visit Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

“After 35 years in music, I am gradually beginning to feel the need to now concentrate on studio work and less on live shows,” she said.

KENYA PEACE TOUR

The songbird has returned to Kenya after several years, for what is a much-anticipated visit dubbed “Kenya Peace Tour”.

She said the Kenyan performances would be among her last in a long career, in which she started out as a dancer and gradually made her way to the front, showcasing great vocals. She will be finally winding down towards the end of the year.

Mbilia has been part of exciting performances during visits to Kenya over the last 30 years or so, the first being as part of her mentor Tabu Ley Rochereau’s Afrisa International Band.

To top up her current visit, she will be singing some of the songs from her latest album launched last month, Signature.

RELATIONSHIPS

The album contains 17 tracks with themes ranging from social commentaries, to peace appeals and relationships, a popular subject in Congolese music in Lingala, generally referred to as Bolingo. The album was produced at Eagle Centre in Congo, Brazzaville.

Despite expressing a desire to go slow on live performances, Mbilia is still as agile as ever and, to prove this, she did a captivating jig on her arrival in Nairobi on Monday.

In future, she plans to only occasionally take part in VIP concerts, but will be fully involved in mentoring up-and-coming musicians in Africa and Europe.

AFRICAN MUSIC

The artiste was accompanied by three other musicians. Four others are expected to join her on Wednesday from Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo capital, which is revered as the Mecca of African music.

Congolese songstress Mbilia Bel in Nairobi on June 27, 2017. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Congolese songstress Mbilia Bel in Nairobi on June 27, 2017. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The highlight of her tour will be a concert as part of the 57th anniversary celebrations of the Congolese Day on Friday at The New Meladen Club in Nairobi’s Upper Hill.

During her current Kenyan tour, she will also sing peace songs ahead of the country’s elections. “I promise to give my Kenyan fans the best of both my earlier and new songs,” an elated Mbilia said.

PAST COLLABORATION

According to the organisers, her tour has been pegged on her evergreen hit Nakei Nairobi (I’m going to Nairobi). She sang it with legendary Tabu Ley in the mid 1980s.

During that show she will team up with her fellow Congolese and Nairobi-based singer General Defao.

They are expected to relive their past collaboration by performing their earlier duet, Copinage.

The Friday show will also be graced by Kenyan stars Kenge Kenge Orutu System known for their enticing percussions and folklore.

Mbilia will on July 7 perform at Kisumu’s Victoria Railway Club.

For her fans in Kisumu, this will be their chance to see her perform alongside Kenyan stars Lady Maureen and Madanji Perimeter.

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