Special/Signature Issues » Folk Used to Be a Bad Word

Samba Mapangala and Orchestra Virunga: Rumba, Baby, Rumba

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A Kenyan legend of '70s East African rumba music, Samba Mapangala was understandably proud when Barack Obama was elected president. He even wrote a song, “Obama Ubarikiwe” roughly translated as “Obama God Bless You,” and performed it as part of the Africa on the Potomac celebration during the inaugural festivities.

Mapangala is one of many African musicians influenced by the American godfather of soul, James Brown, when the legendary artist performed for African audiences at the 1974 Ali-Foreman fight. He comes to Richmond with his longtime band, Orchestra Virunga, named after an active volcanic mountain range in Central Africa. Listening to the music, it's not so much explosive volcanoes that come to mind but rather fluttering birds: considering the wiry guitar and bright, fluttering melodies of danceable '70s African soukas from the Congo, sung mostly in Lingala and Kiswahili.

Mapangala relocated to the Washington-Baltimore area in 1997 after struggling with the pirated music market in Europe. When he returned to Kenya last winter, the engaging performer drew thousands as part of a large stadium show.

Performances
Friday: 9:30-10:30 p.m. on the Richmond Times-Dispatch Dance Pavillion.
Saturday: 7:30-8:15 p.m. on the Ukrop's/First Market Stage.

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