Led by the top Zairean vocalist Pepe Kalle (b. Kabasele Yampanya, 1951, Kinshasa, Zaire), Empire Bakuba was one of the leading ‘punk soukous’ bands popular in Kinshasa during the 80s, playing a stripped-down, high-energy version of the music of longer established bands led by Franco and Rochereau. Kalle, nicknamed The Elephant Of Zaire, was an imposing front man, having come through a strong musical apprenticeship that began in 1968 with membership of African Jazz. In 1970 he established African Choc with Pay-Tex and Dilu. He subsequently changed the name of the band to Empire Bakuba. By the late 80s they had become possibly the most popular of all Zairean groups, establishing their fine blend of rumba across the continent. They also adapted to the latest dance crazes with ease, circumnavigating the Essombi, Oh Nager and Kwassa Kwassa dances without losing their own sound. By the 90s their regional popularity enabled them to embark on a series of international engagements in Europe, Japan and the USA.
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