Benga is a genre
n popular music
. It evolved between the late 1940s and late 1960s, in Kenya's capital city
. In the 1940s, the African Broadcasting Service
in Nairobi aired a steady stream of soukous
, South Africa
lese finger-style guitar
and various kinds of Cuba
n dance music
that heavily influenced emergence of benga. There were also popular folk songs of Kenya's Luo
peoples that formed the base on benga creation.
The Luo of Kenya have long played an eight-string lyre
'', 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 society through music. Opondo Owenga of Gem Yala
, the grandfather of Odhiambo Siangla
, was known for employing music as a means of teaching the history of the Luo. The father of the popular Luo Benga is non-other than The Famous George Ramogi (Omogi Wuod Weta) and CK Jazz. He helped the Benga enthusiasts by recording their Benga music in different labels in the capital city of Nairobi. Dr. Mengo of Victoria Jazz was a protege of George Ramogi.
In 1967, the first major benga band, Shirati Jazz, was formed by Daniel Owino Misiani (22nd February 1940-17th May 2006)
[Onyor, J.O. (2019). Political imagery and symbolism in Daniel Owino Misiani’s benga songs. Master’s Thesis. Maseno University, Kenya. https://repository.maseno.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/123456789/1435/corrected%20copy%20thesis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (25 February 2021).]
The group launched a string of hits that were East Africa's biggest songs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Shirati Jazz's biggest rival was 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. Victoria C Band of Awino Lawi
was one of the splinter group of Victoria Jazz.
1997 saw the death of three prominent Luo Benga artist, Okatch Biggy
of ''Heka Heka Band'', George Ramogi
and Prince Jully
. The ''Jolly Boys Band'' of Prince Jully was taken over by his wife Princess Jully
and she has since been a leading female Benga musician.
Another famous benga band 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
More modern benga artists include Kapere Jazz Band
and the rootsy Ogwang Lelo Okoth
. The new millennium has seen the emergence of Dola Kabarry
and Musa Juma
. The latter saw his career cut short as he died in 2011. MJ, as he was popularly known to his fans, developed a kind of benga that infused elements of rumba. he was able to mold other musicians such as John Junior, Ogonji, Madanji, and his late brother Omondi Tonny.
[Daily Nation, 16 March 2011]
Benga maestro leaves fans waiting for more
There are also other benga artists based in other countries other than Kenya, such as the American/Kenyan group Extra Golden.
* Chandarana Records
Category: Kenyan styles of music
Category: African popular music