Jean Bosco Mweda

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A pioneer of African finger-style acoustic guitar playing, Jean Bosco Mwenda recorded more than 150 tunes between 1952 and 1962. Although he retreated from the recording studio for more than a quarter…
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A pioneer of African finger-style acoustic guitar playing, Jean Bosco Mwenda recorded more than 150 tunes between 1952 and 1962. Although he retreated from the recording studio for more than a quarter of a century, his return in 1988 showed that he had continued to grow as a guitarist and singer (in the Swahili language) during the hiatus. Shortly after the recording session, however, Mwenda died in an automobile accident. When an album recorded during the final sessions, Mwenda Wa Bayeke, was released in 1995, Sing Out! claimed that it "shows a variety and brilliance unmatched by any other African acoustic player."

Mwenda's early recordings were pioneered by several American musicians. Happy Traum featured a transcription of his song, "Masanga," in a guitar tutorial, while saxophonist Marion Brown arranged several of his tunes for a jazz ensemble. At the invitation of Pete Seeger, Mwenda performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960.

Anthropologist Gerhard Kubik and South African musicologist High Tracey filmed Mwenda performing in the early '60s with five tunes featured in the video documentary, African Guitar - Solo Fingerstyle Guitar Music From Uganda, Congo/Zaire, Central African Republics, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia. Mwenda's musical legacy has been passed on to his son, Didier Mwenda.