“In the wake of trials and tribulations, it is up to a person to work towards self-empowerment, using every God-given talent that he/she has been blessed with
This is the philosophy that Mermans Kenkosenki and his band, Afro- Fiesta, the new group recently signed to the Vibrations Studio label, have adopted as an integral part of their lives as musicians.
In 1988, at age 19 and still at school in the Congolese town of Kinshasa, Mermans secretly began playing the guitar. He would practice every day in hiding, not wanting his parents to find out.
In those days being a musician was frowned upon and considered a career for people with no direction. It was this negative sentiment that eventually forced him to run away from home, in order to pursue his first love.
His journey took him from the Congo to Angola where he hoped his fortunes would change for the better. In Angola he taught himself to play the drums and joined a struggling reggae band, but no matter how tough it got, he stuck to his guns and worked harder to improve himself as a musician and a person.
In 1995, Mermans met a young man known as Big Sammy in Luanda, where he was bass guitar player in a band called Attraction 2000 and they became close friends. The two decided to relocate to South Africa as they felt there would be more opportunities for them as musicians.
Sammy arrived in South Africa first and soon joined a band called the Young Bakuba Band (label mates at Vibrations), later paying for an airticket for Mermans to join him. Mermans says that this act of generosity changed the direction of his life and showed to him that musicians do look out for each other.
On his arrival in South Africa in 1998, Mermans joined the Young Bakuba Band as a drummer and bass guitar player, alternating between the two roles. After a year in the band he found that his independence and musical style were being limited and he branched out on his own as a solo artist in 1999. He was soon in demand, doing solo gigs at various Cape Town venues including Dizzy’s Jazz Cafe and the legendary Cafe Camissa on Kloof Street. Shortly after this he decided that he preferred a band set-up and formed a new group which he called the Brothers Band, comprising his long time friend MC on congas and guitar and Jibriel Omonga as singer and percussionist.
The new millennium brought more changes for the band with Papi (Felix Garemua) joining as lead guitarist, Alfredo as bassist, Junior as drummer and Christian on keyboards. The band soon became a drawcard at various venues around Cape Town including Mama Afrika, Chapman’s Peak Hotel, Kennedy’s Cigar Lounge, Africa Junction, Marco’s African Restaurant, and appeared at the Jazzathon 2004.
In 2004 Mermans knew it was time for the band to release an album and he was able to sign a deal with Mohamed Fall of Vibrations Studio. He decided to add a few more faces to his talented core of musicians and Chibo, Tentino, Mavakala, Bova and Jason joined the group. He now had a group of master musicians oozing talent and enthusiasm. He renamed the group Afro-Fiesta, to reflect the many countries and cultures of the band members and after many hours of hard work in the studio, Mermans knew that he had a great album, full of potential hits in songs like “Matinda" “Tandiswa and “Bolingo? The songs are a fusion of various styles incorporating Makossa, hints of Latino and Afro-jazz, making this a truly unforgettable recording.
This self-titled debut album is set for release late 2005. Watch out for it this band is going places!