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Classified alongside Zaiko Langa-Langa as one of the “youth bands” challenging established stars such as Franco and Rochereau, the band proved an instant success, not least for Soki Dianzenza’s charismatic stage presence. Although the brothers had formed the band under the patronage of Charles Pierre Loukelo’s Editions La Musette, they transferred their allegiances to Verckys Kiamuangana, signing to his Editions Veve label in 1971.

Verckys recruited two young singers for the band, Kabasele Yampanya, better known now as Pepe Kalle, and Nyboma Mwan Dido, who song on Mbuta, the band’s smash hit of 1972. The tensions between the brothers were evident, however. In 1972 Soki Dianzenza left to form Orchestra Bella Mambo, but reconciled with Soki Vangu the following year. By then, Bella Bella had split from Verkys to set up their own Editions Allez-y Freres Soki (Let’s Go, Soki Brothers) label, with Nyboma and Kinzunga Tonton Ricos quitting the band to form Orchestra Lipua Lipua. Despite these upheavals, in 1974 the band was at the peak of its powers, scoring hit after hit. Success, though, failed to satisfy the mercurial Soki Dianzenza who ran a parallel career with Orchestra Bella Mambo for a while before quitting Bella Bella for the second time in late 1975.

In 1979 the brothers were back together as Bella Bella, joined briefly by vocalist Kanda Bongo and guitarist Diblo Dibala, who had both worked with Soki Dianzenza in Bella Mambo. The reconciliation didn’t last long as Bella Bella finally dissolved in 1980.

Soki Dianzenza died on May 4, 1990, at the age of 35; two weeks later, in Germany, Soki Vangu passed away at 42 years old.

Besides the Soki brothers, , according to an article in La Conscience, Bella Bella’s early 1970s

line-up included: Emmany Shaba Kahamba, bass; Kinzunga Tonton Ricos, lead guitar; Dino Vangu, lead guitar; Bissikita, rhythm guitar; Kayembe, mi-solo guitar; Nkuka Nono, drums, Kialungila, saxophone; Michael, saxophone; Domain, trumpet; Manzenza, trumpet; Wawanko Zoé, percussion.

Because La Conscience gives the date of the brothers’ deaths as April 1992 rather than May 1990 as stated in Gary Stewart’s book Rumba on the River, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this line-up.

Bella Bella’s music has been heavily anthologised on CD, first on the now hard to find Sonodisc label, then in 5 CDs released by Ngoyarto in 1999 and in a rival 5 CD selection put out by Glenn Music in 2002 and re-released in 2006. In 2003 Ngoyarto deleted its first anthologies and released a new set of of 5 CDs that featured numerous songs that had not appeared on its original collections.

The place to find the track listings and compare these competing collections is the Bolingo website.

Orchestra Bella Bella

Congolese band active from 1970 to 1980. Emile Soki (Soki Dianzenza) was just 14 years old when he won a national songwriting competition in 1969, a success that prompted him to form a band Les Myosotis. That same year his elder brother Maxim Soki (Soki Vangu) abandoned his university studies in Lubumbashi to join Orchestra Negro Succes. Both supposed breaks proved to be deadends, so the brothers teamed up to form Orchestra Bella Bella, which made its live debut in Kinshasa in August 1970.

Brothers Soki Dianzenza and Soki Vangu