Kanda Bongo Man, born in 1955 in Inongo in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) of the Bandundu people, left school at the age of 18 to join a local Kinshasa band, playing the hot rhumba sound of the time. He quickly moved on to play with the Orchestre Bella Mambo in 1976. He jumped from band to band, but still considers Bella Mambo to have been one of the best congolese bands of all time.Seeking a wider audience, Kanda moved to Paris in 1979, where he first worked in a window-pane factory. His big breakthrough came in 1981 with the release of Iyole which he recorded with Orchestre Bella Bella, with Diblo Dibala on lead guitar.
In 1983 Kanda played WOMAD in the UK and his international reputation was born. The Bongo Man (his father was also called Bongo Man) sings in Lingala, and his high speed form of soukous gave birth to the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm where the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips. Kanda now tours widely with a tight 5-6 person band.