Introducing: Pepe Felly Manuaku Waku
Pepe Felly is also an original band member. Those who write up on Zaiko Langa Langa tend to only mention the names of those who sang upfront at one point or another. But Pepe Felly has been a vital part of Zaiko Langa Langa from the beginning and is responsible for changing Congolese music by introducing the Sebene to the song format. The sebene is a melody on two or four measurements, looped to express what the singer cannot express with words. It's the expression of the songs emotion through melody. This part of the song allows the music to connect even more with the audience. No, Pepe Felly was not a singer but as lead guitar soloist, he was definitely a star in the Zaiko Langa Langa line up just like Papa Wemba or Nyoka Longo.
Pepe Felly was born, Felix Pedro Manuaku in 1954 in Congo-Kin. The bio on his official website (which is in french) doesn't specify a city or village. He was born second in a family of 7 boys and 5 girls. As a child he attended The Academy of Beautiful Arts of Kinshasa. He began his career with Zaiko at the tender age of 15 in 1969. By 1973, at only 19 years old, Pepe Felly was named the best guitarist of the third generation of modern Congolese music by the Congolese press. In 1977 he played with Tabu Ley at Festac of Lagos, Nigera, recorded "Love Me Love Me" with reggae sensation, Jimmy Cliff and the French singer, Jacques Higelin. His guitar dominated Zaiko's sound until he left the group in 1980 at which time he formed Grand Zaiko Wawa. From '85 to '88 he toured with Grand Zaiko Wawa through Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Rawanda, Burundi, Niger, Switzerland, Belguim and France. (Zaiko Langa Langa has splintered into several spin off orchestras by this time. These 'splinters' will be covered over time...)
In 1989 Felly relocated to Switzerland where he took part in workshops of The Lausanne School of Jazz and giving lessons of guitar at Hello Jazz with American saxophonist Robin Kenyatta.
2005 found Pepe Felly meeting Narcisse Okon, an event coordinator, concert programmer, and DJ from Ivory Coast. Together they form Pepe Felly & Band who bring forth L'Afrique C'est Chic. L'Afrique C'est Chic is a showcase of African music from across the continet which seeks to be an international annual music festival.
Today Pepe Felly still lives in Switzerland and continues to play music. Tomorrow I will transcribe Show #9, the interview between Guy Angrand, Pierre Mbala and himself which goes more into what he's doing at the present time and talks about the history of Zaiko from a first hand experience. Also a few mp3s to go along with it. Stay tuned. PEACE...