Issa Juma & Super Wanyika Stars - World Defeats The Grandfathers – Swinging Swahili Rumba 1982-1986
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cd cover Issa Juma & Super Wanyika Stars
World Defeats The Grandfathers – Swinging Swahili Rumba 1982-1986 (Stern's Music)

Wanyika Stars was the defining sound of Kenyan Swahili rumba in the late 70s and early 80s, and Issa Juma was a pivotal figure in both creating and giving it new directions. His powerful baritone voice was indisputably the best of the Wanyika clan and, constantly experimenting, his style could change with each producer and session. Carefully re-mastered, full-length recordings that include bona fide hits alongside rare, never-before-released tracks, this album is a long-overdue homage to a brilliant vocalist and band-leader, an innovative and accomplished musician who today is sadly missed.
Highly Recommended!

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From the pages of fRoots
We might idly think of African music as heavy on the drum, but surprisingly often it's not so, and especially not in East African Swahili rumba. This, largely derived from the Congolese model, is powerful and involving music but what controls the rhythm is little more than strict but feather-light cymbals, the timely roll or rim-shot, so you hardly realise how subtly and irresistibly you are being captured. There's a bass drum, but rarely prominent – all the bottom end is supplied by the bass, usually playing strange prowling patterns with a determination of its own, more like a lead guitar or marching tuba. Circling above are the guitars, not exactly rhythm and lead, but more like male and female, weaving, announcing, responding. It's actually ethereal. Clear vocal harmonies and a simply heartbreaking lead baritone – no wonder that Issa Juma, who died in the early '90s, was rated the best of the Wanyika singers.

Which leads to a whole convoluted other story: there wasn't just one Wanyika band but, forever splintering and rebudding, at least ten; at one point four Wanyikas were playing Nairobi nightclubs concurrently. For current purposes: the original Simba Wanyika band started in northern Tanzania, crossed the border into Kenya in 1975, and Issa Juma, who'd made his own circuitous way up from Tanzania, joined them a few years later. He left in 1981 to form Super Wanyika and then (among other names) the Super Wanyika Stars, a successful bandleader in his own right.

This album, a remastered mixture of hits and rarities, was recorded with a variety of musicians, but the style is cohesive, the effect utterly exhilarating. And the title, by the way, comes from the song Maria, track five: “The world is big… it defeats the grandfathers. - Rick Sanders

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