Sunday, 12 August 2007

This Weekend's Profile

Meet Musician Kawele “Fingerprinter” Mutimanwa

Bad leadership and corruption in Africa has created unrest, poverty and refugees.
Take Congo.
In early 1961, one of the most dynamic leaders that have ever come from this beleaguered continent, Patrice Lumumba, was killed at a prime age of 36. Congo had become independent the year before and Lumumba was democratically elected Prime Minister. But no sooner was Congo free from the Belgians than Lumumba started speaking a language of a new born baby, a free person. Those were the days of the Cold War and soon the young chief was branded a “communist.” CIA used a soldier called Joseph Mobutu to get rid of his own country man to preserve business interests.span class="fullpost">.
Lumumba and a few of his cabinet members were beaten up, bundled inside sinister lorries like frightened cows, frog-matched to the bushes and shot. After murdering them the culprits erased the bodies with sulphuric acid. In a 2002 interview, London’s New African magazine, one of the Belgian soldiers who took part confessed to have kept Lumumba’s wedding ring as memento. A review of the 2001 Lumumba murder film described it as “unsettling and horrific.”
Lumumba is one. But it all began when King Leopold of Belgium used the country for his own source of personal wealth after the scramble for Africa began in 1884. Since those times, Congolese people, under the corrupt govern ship of Colonel Mobutu (1965 onwards) have become displaced and homeless Zairians. The rich country has been turned into a battle ground for more than five countries. Congo-Zaire is one of the most wealthy nations in the world with minerals and the huge fertile Congo forest. To give you an example take your mobile phone. The micro chip inside the phone is a resistant mineral originating from Coltan (columbium and tantalite); 80% of this resource comes from Africa and according to the World Rainforest Movement in Uruguay, 80% of that comes from Congo Zaire. Best this richness has done is to buy guns and create bloodshed. The African American musician and writer, Gil Scott Heron told me an interview, in April 1999: “The reason that we can’t have peace is because you cannot make money with peace.”
Even though Mobutu died of prostate cancer in 1997, Zairians have tumbled into despair and globe trotting. I was chatting to one Zairean national the other day and he confessed he has taken a European passport for himself and his family because “I see no hope of ever returning home.”
One of the only consolation for these forsaken people has become music. Zairean music, Congolese dance music, Soukous, Ndombolo is amongst the highly dominant of African popular dance forms. It sits high alongside “Mbaqanga” (South Africa), “High Life” and “Afro-beat” (West Africa).
And that’s where he comes in.
The diminutive derives from his skill on the electric guitar. He has been on the move for two thirds of his life.
Having settled in London since mid 1990’s as a refugee, Kawele Mutimanwa was born in Bukavu in 1957. He belongs to the Warega tribe of East Congo. The music bug caught him early; he did not even finish secondary school in 1972. From then, he was married to the guitar. “All I did,” Kawele recalls sipping his Stella beer, “is going to places where music was, watching and listening to the guitar players.”
Kawele has played with almost every single name on the Congolese Soukous music scene, plus a host of African and non-African musicians.
As a result of the said displaced background, music has taken him far. He has lived and gigged in Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, many parts of Europe, USA and Australia.
I have personally worked with Kawele and still share the stage with him from time to time. It is always a pleasure working with this humble, down to earth guy. He is unselfish in the true sense of the word. Despite being a highly competent musician (besides guitar he is competent saxophonist, sings and arranges) he allows everyone else to share in the playing and never takes over like some egoistic artists of his magnificent stature, would. His house in East London is always packed with men, women, children. Everyone who has been around Kawele will tell you he is one of those rare individuals whose vocabulary excludes the word, no. He is always helping somebody. A man with a heart of the Congolese gold.
Check a list of some of the stars the skilled guitarist has worked with...
Kanda Bongo Man, Sam Mangwana, Remmy Ongala, King Kiki, Ndala Kasheba, Mzee Makassy, Samba Mapangala.
And bands.
Arusha International, Tankat Almasi, Safari Sound, Kurugenzi Arusha (Tanzania) Banangenge, Bana Lienza, Mule Mover (Zambia), Kyauri Voice, Toma Toma, Kitoto Band…
Lady JD, Ray C (Tanzanian hip-hop singers) King Masco(Sierra Leone) Abdul T Jay (Sierra Leone) Koko Kanyinda (Congo) Kaz Kasozi (Uganda), Jennifer Lawala (Uganda)….
Surprisingly despite all this thirty year plus musical experience, when I tapped Kawele on Google the other day nothing came up. The long, unending but unsuccessful career of such a talented soul has much to say about African music. Kawele himself explains.
“English is the language of pop music. We sing in African languages and that is difficult with this powerful industry.”
Throughout this tough odyssey he has led his own groups as well. In London was first No Tchuna Cha (1995-1999) while today is Afrika Jambo. It was with No Tchuna Cha where his nickname Finger Printer arose. They recorded, Alama za Vidole, in 1999.

See their photo taken during the early days.

London Folk Roots magazine said the CD “Has class. Authentic sweet harmonies, chiming guitars…”
You may catch Kawele and his Afrika Jambo band at Club Afrique every Sunday. More info about the club log on:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the exciting history and update about kawelee. Honestly, I met him back in 1989 while featuring with Tancut Almas Ochestra and believe me I enjoyed his solo guitar and the entire group. Can kawelee send CD's for sale here in Dsm?

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