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And so we come CD number 5 in the Stern's / AI Records archives project...

STCD3053 Vijana Jazz Band

Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One

Sister Pili + 2

Stern's STCD3062









Since 2009, I have been working with Stern's Music to release a series of compilations from the audio archives of Nairobi's AIT Records (now called AI Records). This is the fifth CD release, available from 22 October, 2012. This is great dance music and, most apropos, there will also be a 10 inch vinyl release with two songs from the CD, Adidja and Aoko (Danger Girl).

Here are my notes from the CD booklet:

When I first met Moreno (Batamba Wenda Morris) in the mid-1980s, I was already a fan. I had heard a few of his recordings and was completely blown away by his deep, explosive voice. With its precise intonation, an allenveloping rich bass and a timbre which could suggest a distressed psyche, it was an unusual sound for a lead vocalist in East Africa. But Moreno also had a tremendous vocal range and in every song his voice just bursts out – powerful and impressive. The fans loved it.

Originally from Kisangani in eastern Congo (then Zaire), Moreno left school for music in 1971 and soon ended up in Uganda. While in Uganda, he joined the Congolese group Bana Ngenge in 1974 and went along with them as they migrated to Nairobi. After some initial success, Bana Ngenge came apart in 1976 leading Moreno to join another Congolese group resident in Nairobi at the time, Les Noirs. That lasted until 1978 when he moved to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. While there, one of the groups he sang for was the renowned Orchestra Safari Sound.

By 1980, however, Moreno was back in Nairobi and formed the first of his several Orchestra Moja One bands. While he did have public performances with Moja One, the group was more of a concept than an everyday band working in clubs. He’d work with one producer for a while and release a single or even an album. Soon he’d be working with a different producer and another label. In 1983 Moreno joined up with Samba Mapangala’s Orchestra Virunga for the ‘Mabiala’ album. But by 1984 he was back for another, all be it short, incarnation of Moja One with the fine Congolese vocalist Madjo Maduley. Press reports tell us he returned to Zaire that same year for a visit which kept him out of the Kenyan scene until 1986. That pretty much closed the book on Orchestra Moja One.

It was in 1986 that I first saw him in concert. He was performing a sort of Kenyan / Congolese fusion with Kenya Blue Stars. The new group kept him semi-employed for several years but not terribly happy with the product or the earnings. It wasn’t until 1993 that he really got back on track with a major hit, his ‘Sitaki Vidonge’ album. But, as is the sad story for so many African musicians, just as his future in music was brightening, Moreno passed away in 1993 at the early age of 38.

Even today in Kenya, people have fond memories of Moreno’s music and there are quite a number of his songs available in cassette collections locally. However, on the international scene, there are almost no recordings of Moreno available, authorised or not. In our Sister Pili collection we bring you the original tracks from his 1983 album and, as a bonus, we have included a pair of super rare songs by Moreno fronting his studio group L’Orchestre Bana Nzadi in 1977.

CD notes by Douglas B. Paterson ©2012 Stern's Music.

East African Music - African Radio

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To contact Douglas Paterson, send email to DPaterson@EastAfricanMusic.com.

Last updated 19 February, 2013.

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