March 15, 2009


According to local sources Mbaraka Mwinshehe was killed on January 12, 1979 when his car drove into a tree on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi. Years later taxidrivers could be seen pointing at various trees along the road where the fatal crash of the star of Mombasa's Bush Bar had occurred.

Although to those who don't speak or understand swahili (like me) Mbaraka may be known primarily for his unique guitar playing and singing style, in Kenya and in his native Tanzania he was -and still is- highly respected and loved for his lyrics. Mbaraka sings about the lives, loves and problems of the 'common man'.

I have already posted one of the Ukumbusho series released by Polygram Kenya in the 1980s (volume eight to be precise), and will -in the course of time- post all the others. To give you an idea of his lyrics, here is an example from Ukumbusho Volume Two "Urafiki mwisho wa mwezi".
Urafiki* mwisho wa mwezi
Friendship at the end of the month

You know I am having problems,
you've heard I am sick,
still you don't come and see me.
Is that what you call friendship?
It's more like animosity,
if we can't help each other.
When you hear I have money again,
you come running to see me.
Is that what you call friendship?
It's more like animosity,
if we can't help each other.
What kind of friendship is this at the end of the month?
When I am broke, you don't show up.
Even when I'm sick you don't want me.
When I'm sick you don't care about me.

In this volume Mbaraka is accompanied by his Super Volcano orchestra, which he founded in 1973 after leaving the Morogoro Jazz. The other songs are about similar 'challenges' of the ordinary Kenyan and Tanzanian (or, come to think of it, citizen of any country). "Mtaa wa saba" (the seventh street), about moving away from a poor neighbourhood, where the noise deprived him of his sleep, and the landlord of his money. "Pole dada" (poor girl), about a girl who was passed over by love. "Kibena" and "Jasinta", both about the bad influence of city life on these 'village' women.

In the spirit of the time (the 1970s) Mbaraka occasionally chose a more educational subject, like in "Vijana wa Afrika" (youth of Africa), in which he calls on the youth of Africa to defend 'the revolution in Africa' (no doubt referring to Nyerere's Ujamaa).

Timeless lyrics and a timeless music: Mbaraka Mwinshehe's recipe to overcome death.

POLP 537 (December 21, 2016: updated to 320 kbps).

*friendship (the lyrics were translated by Joris Oldewelt)


Anonymous said...

Thanks much. Music by this artist is very difficult to get.

Anonymous said...

Thank you -- I'm happy with this. Over the past couple of years, I've managed to collect quite a large part of Mbaraka's catalogue, through blogs like this, swaps, explicit requests... Because I love this music so much. I've not paid a cent. Which is scandalous: if a complete box set with professionally remastered recordings and lavishly illustrated booklet were to be produced, I'd be the first to buy it. And I'd pay double if I knew that the proceeds would go to Mbaraka's estate. I'm hoping this will happen someday; meanwhile, keep the Ukumbushos coming!

Anonymous said...

is there any video footage of mbaraka mwinshehe? i have looke dandlooked in vain

Anonymous said...

I can only agree 100 oercent with daan42 .. thank you for this blog and sharing your special collection ... chris a

Timothy said...

Asante sana kwa kutupatia mitindo hii mitamu ya Mbaraka Mwishehe [Swahili].

Matondi Mingi mpo na kopesa biso Mindule oyo kitoko na Mbaraka Mwinshehe [Lingala].

Thanks for giving us these great hits by Mbaraka Mwinshehe.

zim said...

Completely agree with daan on this, its really a shame his music hasn't been readily available (other than for a short period on the dizim compilation)

here are some links to other mbaraka from the web:

from Dalston Oxfam shop

from Rumba Bantu

from Likembe

Anonymous said...

Will translate Swahili for you any day if you ever need the service.

WrldServ said...

@robert: I will certainly keep this in mind. Thank you!

@zim: Thanks for those useful links.

@wuodk (anonymous): I have never seen or heard of videos of Mbaraka.

@daan42: I agree. I too would prefer a nice box with the complete Mbaraka, plus full-colour booklet.

Anonymous said...

Any chance to post ukumbusho 5 and 6? thanks. said...

do you know if volume 10 ever appeared? I have vols 1-9, 11, 12, hallo betty, last recordings, VERY last recordings, Pesa no 1, the two morogoro albums that came out on polygram, and a Tamasha compilation called Soloist National 1968-72, but never saw Ukumbusho vol 10.

WrldServ said...

I have never seen or heard of a volume 10.

(note to self: perhaps it's time for more Mbaraka...)