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Jean Bosco Mwenda

b. c. 1929, Shaba, Zaire, d. 1991. This legendary acoustic guitarist was in part responsible for the first wave of Zairean musical ‘authenticité’ in the 40s, turning his back on lucrative engagements in nightclubs catering to the European élite and concentrating instead on reviving African audiences’ pride in their own roots music. He was discovered by South African musicologist Hugh Tracey in 1951, who recorded Bosco in his hotel room. During the 50s a prolific amount of Bosco’s material was released on the South African Gallotone label, spreading the guitarist’s reputation throughout Africa. In the 60s he based himself in Nairobi, recording and performing live to rapt audiences. He also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in America, and played with Miriam Makeba at the infamous Mohammed Ali/George Foreman fight in Kinshasa. Less prominent after the rise of electric bands in the late 60s, he branched out into business including hotels and nightclubs. Still active on the music scene, Bosco recorded a tribute to President Mobutu’s wife in the mid-80s, and recorded with young stars such as Papa Wemba before his tragic death in a car crash in 1991.
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