Wawali Bonane was born in Banningville (now Bandundu), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire). He was weaned on the sounds and rhythms of the Bandundu region. In 1966, Wawali dropped out of school with friend and partner Pepe Kalle, now one of Congo's top stars, to form their first band, Les Monkoy. In 1974, Wawali was invited by superstar Tabu Ley Rochereou to join his band, Afrisa International. Throughout his career Wawali has been creating hybrid music known as soukous, a popular style that first came to prominence in the 1950s and combines elements of Cuban rhumba and Antillean music with Congolese aesthetics. Following the soukous scene from Congo to Paris, the international center for soukous, Wawali was a mainstay on the scene, working as a support singer for a variety of performers and pursuing his own solo projects. After leaving Afrisa International, Wawali and longtime partner Steve Mgondo came to Seattle and tenaciously dug in with their band Yoka Nzenze. Later, they were joined by renowned soukous guitarist Nseka Binwela (a.k.a. Huit Kilo). They are also supported by an ever-changing variety of Seattle-based backing musicians.
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