A radio DJ sends music out into the air, never knowing where it will land. In this case, music I played on my “African Beat” program began a chain of life-changing events for listener Peter Toll, who, captivated by East African rumba, went on to become album producer for (and friend of) the seminal Kenyan band Simba Wanyika, as well as an observer, collector and chronicler of the music of East Africa.
Simba Wanyika was one of the best bands playing in Nairobi during the heyday of East Africa’s music scene, which also included powerhouse groups such as Les Mangelepa, Orchestra Virunga, and a wealth of others who, now those glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s have passed, are mostly of interest only to record collectors, music historians, and aficionados of East African rumba. A couple of compilations that document the vibrant sound of that golden era are Guitar Paradise of East Africa and Kenya Dance Mania (Sterns/Earthworks), quite likely out-of-print collector’s items at this point.
This feature from The Beat was published in 1993 on the occasion of the death of George Peter Kinyonga, one of two brothers who established the Wanyika dynasty and created some of the best East Africa music ever made. Peter commemorates the life and career of George, and the story of the great Simba Wanyika, enlivened by his personal reminiscences and a discographer’s attention to their convoluted history.
READ OR DOWNLOAD PDF HERE: Beat12#4SimbaWanyika
More tragedy ensued in 1995 with the demise of the second Kinyonga brother, Wilson Peter. The video below was filmed at the Open Tropen festival in Belgium in 1990.