Lungu Lungu: Bamboo’s Timeless Swahili Bridge

May 09, 2013

I can never get enough Congolese guitar. I'm so addicted to it that I hunt it down wherever possible, even if it lives outside of the Congolese rumba world. If you read through past posts, you'll notice Congolese samples in Didjak Munya's song "Mukusa," Tanzanian rumba-flavored loops behind Zaiid's rhymes, and now, the dopest hip-hop beat I've heard in a long while, on Bamboo's jam Bibi Yangu.

Download: Bamboo, "Bibi Yangu" (Prod. by K da Great)

Producer K da Great directly extends the life of Congolese genius Franco, flipping Franco's classic hit "Mamou". Bamboo's smooth verses remind me how badly I want to speak Swahili. Interestingly, Bamboo is not a native speaker, he grew up in Inglewood, California, with Kenyan-American parents. "It was rough and I was getting into trouble with the rest of the neighborhood kids, so [my parents] sent me to Kenya," he explains.

Bamboo brought his love of hip-hop with him, and as he picked up Swahili, he managed to start "rapping in it as if it was English". His talent didn't go unnoticed: "I found myself being an artist after winning several rap and talent competitions here in Kenya, and the buzz just spread about me through word of mouth". As I ask Bamboo my questions, I realize how well he's able to understand the gaps between cultures and how to overcome them with creativity. It helps to have a dual background and to bounce around: "I travel a lot but I've been in Nairobi for a few months now working on my album, and just researching to dig deep into what our sound was before we even had all this new technology, and see how we can mesh that with what is now to make something deep but cool and authentic."

With Bibi Yangu, Bamboo is creating a bridge not only between cultures, but also between generations. Artists who dig into 1960s to 1980s African repertoire are far and few between. Besides the names mentioned earlier, DJ Juls of Ghana has done an impressive job of incorporating classic highlife loops into his hip-hop beats. Now I discover the work of K da Great, "a new upcoming producer," Bamboo tells me. Surely, he's a name to follow.

None of this bridge-building is coincidental. "I'm able to communicate with both East Africans and Americans so in a way I fuse two styles together. I identify with both backgrounds so I like the idea of being able to experiment with sounds from both backgrounds, that can marry and bring a new baby into the world. I think that's pretty cool. "

It makes me happy to find artists like Bamboo who not only realize their potential, but also in a sense their responsibility to bring people together. "My goal in music is to share it with as much of the world as possible, and use it to inspire people positively around the world." Bamboo is busy recording the rest of his upcoming album in Nairobi. There's no release date yet, so be sure to check his Twitter or Facebook pages for updates.

From The Collection:

Lungu Lungu
Lungu Lungu: Bamboo’s Timeless Swahili Bridge