Issa Juma and Super Wanyika Stars ‘World Defeats the Grandfather’ (Sterns) 4/5

Similar to Zaika Langa Langa in Zaire, the Super Wanyika Stars from Kenya have gone through myriad names and off-shoots (Wanyika Les Les, Super Wanyikas and Wanyika Stars among others), but this excellent compilation concentrates firmly on the period between 1982 and 1986 when Issa Juma was lead vocalist. Ironically the lead singer, along with other band members, was actually born in Tanzania, but would find fame if not fortune when the musicians settled in the Kenyan city of Mombasa, when they were initally known as Arusha Jazz. The Swahili style of rumba differs from the classic Congolese equivalent firstly in the absence of brass, a generally lighter feel and the greater emphasis placed upon the bass to propel the intoxicating rhythms on guitars. Sweet harmonies and lovely guitar work are a feature of ‘Barua’ while the infectious bass and keyboard riff on ‘Ma Eliza’ is matched by the harmony vocals. Shuffling drum patterns and catchy guitar licks permeate the pared down Sawhili rumba of ‘Si mimi (It’s not me’)’ with a wonderful breakdown part way through. One inidication of possible influences is evident on ‘Maria’ which, in its use of every daily life tales as lyrics, bears a remarkable ressemblance to the epic ‘Mario’ by Franco with again intricate guitar work brewing up a storm. In general these elongated rumba workouts (eight minutes being the shortest) are ideally suited to the CD format and as ever a beautifully illustrated inner sleeve with notes by writer Douglas Paterson on the band’s trajectory enhance our understanding. Sadly post-1986 health problems and the legal status of band members greatly reduced their output and by the early 1990s Issa Juma had passed away. This compilation, which is superb value at just under eighty minutes, catches the Wanyika Stars in their prime.

Tim Stenhouse