Mbilia Bel bears message of peace on Kenyan visit

Saturday July 09 2022

Mbilia Bel performs at the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya party rally in Nyeri County on July 5, 2022. The Congolese singer will cap her visit with a performance in Nairobi on July 8, 2022. PHOTO | NMG

By Amos Ngaira

Congolese singer Mbilia Bel will be the headline performer at the African Night concert to be held at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi Saturday night.

The promoter of her tour, Jules Nsana, who runs JNsana Promotions, said Bel and her band will remain in the country for a few more days, with the possibility of staging additional concerts.

Bel had a string of hit songs with singer and band leader Seigneur Tabu Ley Rochereau, and is popular across East Africa. In June 2017, she had a show at Club Meladen in Nairobi's Upper Hill area, and last performed in Kenya at the 2019 Koroga Festival — the main event of her Nairobi tour then — also arranged by JNsana Promotions. She shared the stage with London-based compatriot Kanda Bongo Man.

Her current visit, which has coincided with political campaigns for the August 9 General Election, saw her join Azimio la Umoja One Kenya party presidential candidate Raila Odinga on the trail.

Mr Odinga invited her to sing one of her most popular songs Nakei Nairobi (Lingala for "I am going to Nairobi").

At Tuesday’s impromptu performance, Bel asked the crowd and Kenyans in general to promote and embrace peace during electioneering, and invited them to dance along with her.


Nakei Nairobi was composed in praise of former president Daniel arap Moi and the Kenyan towns of Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru. The song was meant to encourage cohesion between Kenyans and Congolese living in the country.

Last week, at an interview hosted by veteran Kenyan broadcaster Fred Obachi Machoka in Nairobi, Bel expressed her delight at having been invited to perform in Kenya again.

"Kenya is like my second musical home and I always feel honoured to be invited to perform here," she said.

Tabu Ley's Afrisa International toured Kenya in 1982, just a few months after Bel, who was initially a dancer, joined the band. She then carved a niche for herself as a top singer.

Bel joined Afrisa International after the departure of fellow singer and dancer Yondo Sister, who pursued a solo career in 1982.

On Bel’s first Kenyan trip, she performed the lead vocals on Tabu Ley's Kamunga hit song. She performed his other compositions, including Eswi yo wapi?, Nadina and Cadance Mudanda.

It was while with Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International that she sung alongside Faya Tess and Beyou Ceil both based in Europe