Orchestre Les Mangelepa


Originally from the Swahili speaking, Eastern Congo Les Mangelepa has formed 46 years ago in Kenya. They have released more than 13 albums and penned some of East Africa’s best-loved songs. At their peak they kept fans busy producing hit after hit; from Zambia to Uganda and from Kenya to Tanzania.

Their brilliant arrangements and superbly crafted songs kept East Africa marching to their beat. In the 1970s their stage shows were breathtaking; Afro hairdos, jumpsuits, bell-bottoms, and platform shoes.

They looked the part, and now in their seventies, Mangelepa is the elder statesmen of a classic sound that still shakes the dance floor. Theirs is a remarkable survival story, playing weekly at Vibro, Nairobi West and now touring out of Africa with an acclaimed album Last Band Standing available on Strut Records.

They had a showcase at WOMEX 17. They toured Europe in summer 2016 around the Afrika Festival in Hertme, NL and again in 2017 around Haus Der Kulture Der Welt’s Wasser Musik Festival in Berlin. They toured again in summer 2018 including Open Air stage slots for WOMAD and their first UK dates.

They are such unswerving force in Nairobi that the city’s residents might be forgiven for overlooking them as part of the every-day cultural fabric of the capital. However, Mangelepa should not be taken for granted, as they are the last of their generation.

Sadly other classic bands like Les Wanyika, Shika Shika, Super Mazembe and Les Marquis don’t exist these days. Mangelepa has become an international representation of Kenya’s heritage. International releases and tours have given them a new found status back at home, and they are celebrated and valued by a growing cohort of young fans.

Many of Mangelepa’s songs made it to Columbia where they became a cornerstone of the Champeta scene in the 1980s. Champeta is a particularly special part of Columbian musical history where Soundsystem played African music, made their versions of African musical classics adding a South American twist by recreating versions with the lyrics in Spanish and using alarms, sirens and other sonic effects.

Even though they never played there, Mangelepa amassed great popularity in Columbia that still exists to this day. No-Nation is excited to be developing the next chapter of the Mangelepa story with Tambura Records (home of Tribu Baharú) in Bogotá with a unique remix project that will use Mangelepa’s current album and create new versions made by the Sound Systems of the Champeta scene. They’ll then tour Columbia and make it to the USA in 2020.

They are still a relevant and exciting force, and with a new studio album in planning too they are quite literally the Last Band Standing and able to bring us this classic sound. They are unique, East African music is in fashion, and Orchestre Les Mangelepa is hot property.

KENairobi, Kenya
In operation since: 


David Alogo
Profile added by In-house East Africa on 17 Jun 2016