Sebene music

348 Sebene songs with 13 519 monthly listeners
Sebene is a fast-paced, upbeat music genre from the Democratic Republic of Congo that's often played at parties and (more)

Where Did Sebene Come From?

Sebene is arguably one of the most influential genres dating back to the 1940s. From here, it developed into a fully-fledged sound in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It traces its inception and development in Congo courtesy of the legendary Henri Bowane, a Congolese guitarist and Franc Luambo, a celebrated artist. It’s these two musical wits who popularised this music for decades that it birthed Rhumba.

Sebene is integral to Congolese music and functions as an instrumental bridge, most often performed on electric guitar. Ideally, the lead guitarist improvises over a repeated theme while the other guitarists play brief phrases in unison. Although Luambo is sometimes given credit for developing the genre in Congolese music history, the instrument bridging was really created by Bowane, the guitarist in the 1940s. In a nutshell, this genre has a lot of rhumba elements since it pioneered sound. It’s a no-brainer that you will often hear some people mistake it for the latter genre.

Interestingly, it is one of the earliest and most established music genres from back in the day. The most widely held idea is that sailors and dockworkers from Sierra Leone, Dahomey (present-day Benin), Nigeria and Ghana brought the acoustic guitar to the Congo basin in the 1920s and 1930s and brought the coining of the Sebene genre. As these early pioneers rethought and reimagined their relationship to the instruments in their hands, the genre came to play a more fundamental role in Congolese music.

Besides Luambo and Bowane, Nico Kasanda, better known as Docteur Nico also played a great role in influencing this genre. Although indirectly, his influences made a lot of impact. In the history of Congolese music, Nico's effortless playing style affected future generations of Congolese guitarists. Without him, soukous would not exist and its style influenced Luambo in the creation of Sebene. As a teenager, he joined the band l'Africa Jazz, where he met the vocalist Joseph Kabasele, better known as Le Grand Kallé. The two went on to have a string of songs together, including "Table Ronde," an anthem to the continent's successful independence campaigns.

It was Luambo who made the Sebene the main focus of Congolese music rather than a transition between choruses. Unlike Nico's fluid improvisations which were rarely repeated, Franco's approach, known as odemba, was rougher, more repetitive, and based on rhythms that moved the hips of dancers at Kinshasa's hottest clubs, such as the Vis-à-Vis. Meanwhile, the advent of 45rpm pressing technology provided performers with the option to lengthen their performances as needed which greatly contributed to the genre's development.

Favourite Artists in Sebene

1. Henri Bowane
2. Franc Luambo
3. Diblo Dibala
4. Papa Wemba
5. Ndonge
6. Kester
7. Mobembo
8. Ida
9. Empire Bakuba
10. Francy
11. Adieu L'Ami
12. Wendo Kolosoy

Why you should listen to Sebene

While you may not hear it in its purest form in the 21st century, its beats always reverberate in a cross-genre of music from Congo. The inception of Sebene to the African musical landscape came with a fresh breath of expression and experimentation for pioneer Congolese artists. That’s why we have Rhumba, a brother to yet another famous genre, Lingala.

Listening to these songs brings about a strong sense of honour and appreciation. The slow tempo with close harmony singing, bouncing light percussion, and, most notably, superb guitar playing characterise the beauty of African music. After decades of music development, the Congolese musical landscape changed. While the genre’s significance wasn’t in question, the price of songwriting in the eyes of Congolese music lovers, who place a higher emphasis on lyrical depth and vocal harmony than on high energy overshadowed the dance. But music maestro Fally Ipupa and team found a balance in great lyrical depth with dance tunes in them to keep the seben fire burning in the 90s.

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