Press: Samba Ngo Biography
The music of Samba Ngo exudes a healing power that must be experienced to be understood. Rooted in traditional Congolese sounds, Ngo is a master of sebene - the characteristic element of Congolese music that enchants and entrances listeners with driving layers of guitar, and call-and-response choruses. Between songs, he incites passion with his own brand of encouragement: "C'est bon!" and "Let's dance now, because tomorrow who knows?"
Ngo, the son of an herbal doctor, was born in the tiny village of Dibulu, in the center of what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. His father, the village's only nganga (doctor), treated the sick (and often insane) with herbs and music in his healing rituals. Ngo learned the natural healing power of music by watching his father, and soon began playing the likembe (also known as a kalimba or thumb piano) and guitar.
At 13, he left his village and moved to Brazzaville, Congo, where he joined a band called Echo Noire, which quickly achieved acclaim in Africa and Europe. He formed his own band, African Rhythms in 1970, and one year later created the group M’Bamina with Nkouka Batenda and Father Christian De La Bretesche. With M’Bamina, Ngo toured worldwide and recorded nine albums. During his 14-year stint with the band, Ngo also worked in Paris as a producer and musical director for Paco Rabanne.
In 1986, he moved to California to begin a solo career. He formed his own band, the Ngoma Players, and released his first solo album, Introspection, in 1990. His 18th album, Metamorphosis, maintains a distinctly African sound, and offers listeners some irresistibly danceable music. His most recent album, Ndoto, showcases his kalimba-like guitar style and expressive voice. Ndoto's lyrics, sung in French, English, Lingala and Kikongo, explore the meaning of love and create an almost spiritual ambiance.
Ngo's music, and the spiritual impetus behind it, makes his sound unique and magical. In a world that's increasingly unpredictable, where greed and violence dominate and differences in culture, race, age and economic status create barriers instead of bridges, Ngo's music restores hope. Ngo's sacred gift, taught by his simple but profoundly wise father, is the healing power of sound and rhythm. His admonishment, "Let's dance today, because tomorrow who knows?" implores us to let the beautiful and rhythmic forces present in his music break down all barriers and find joy in the moment. And that's, as Ngo would say, "C'est bon!"