Songs For The Poor Man

Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila

Released 30 October 1989

  1. Nasikitika
  2. Karola
  3. Kipenda Roho
  4. Sauti Ya Mnyonge
  5. Kifo
  6. Usingizi
  7. Muziki Asili Yake Wapi
  8. Pamella
  9. Dole
  10. Mariam Wangu

Liner notes

Known as the ‘Doctor’, Remmy Ongala is recognised on the streets of Dar Es Salaam by one and all. He is greeted everywhere by children, men, women, by young and old alike. Brief waves and words of greeting are exchanged with shopkeepers, policemen, passing taxi drivers, schoolchildren… in Remmy’s home district of Sinza there is even a bus stop named after him. “Sinza kwa Remmy” you ask to be dropped at the stop near his house.

In a country without television or any form of record industry, such fame in Tanzania is remarkable —all the more remarkable for the fact that Dr. Remmy actually comes from Zaire.

Born in Eastern Zaire in 1947, Remmy’s musical career began in 1964 when his mother’s death left him as sole supporter of the family. In 1978 he was called to Dar Es Salaam by his uncle to join Orchestre Makassy, and in 1981 Remmy joined Orchestre Super Matimila, an eighteen-piece band ‘owned’ by a local businessman.

Doctor Remmy’s subsequent rise to fame owes much to his huge, charismatic personality on stage and to the steady melodic drive of Matimila’s soukous-based music.

But by Remmy’s own account, “I am successful in Tanzania because I write songs about serious topics… the lyrics are the most important part, all my songs have meaning.  Even if my life now is not bad, I will go on to defend the weak ones… I lived in trouble, food was a problem, I picked up bread that others had thrown away.  All the songs I sing result from the difficulties I had in the past… I speak out for my fellow brothers.”

Recorded at Real World Studios over three days during May 1989, this album is the first Orchestre Super Matimila have produced in the Western environment.  The tracks feature Matimila’s touring nucleus of eight musicians, and provide a great introduction to this unique and compelling band.

Words by Thomas Brooman



All songs arranged by Remmy Ongala.

Orchestre Super Matimila are:- Remmy Ongala Lead Vocal and Guitar, Keito Kiniki Vocal, Freddy Sengula Mwilasha Guitar, Muhidini Kisukari Haji Guitar, Hasani Ayas Ayas Guitar, Matu Dikundia Hassan Saxophone, Lawrence Chuki Limbanga Drums, Saidi Salum Jumaine Congas, Matimila Percussion.

Recorded and mixed at Real World Studios, England. Produced by Basil Anderson with David Bottrill and Remmy Ongala, Engineered, Mixed and Edited by David Bottrill Assistant Engineer Christopher Johns Cut by Kevin Metcalfe at The Townhouse, London.

Design Jones/Mouat O Assorted Images Front Cover Remmy Ongala superimposed upon an aerial shot of Zaltan, Libya. Remmy Ongala photographed by Francis Drake. Satellite picture: Science Photo Library. Composite by Rani Charrington/NOVA. Back Cover A wooden hand, one of the stage accessories Remmy Ongala wears around his neck. Photograph by Francis Drake Inside Photography Francis Drake

Thanks to Fatma Abdullah and The Tanzanian High Commission, London, and Toni Ongala.

Further Listening

  • Mambo

    Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila

    Released 02 March 1992

    This album features Remmy Ongala and the band in sparkling form at the 1991 Real World Recording Week. Intricate four-part guitar patterns interlock with bubbling bass lines, while the rhythm shifts seamlessly from a gentle lope to a galloping rhumba.
  • Emotion

    Papa Wemba

    Released 13 March 1995

    Fresh and daring as ever, this world-class singer continues his ascendancy to global notoriety with total emotional impact. A brilliant blast of pop and dance rhythms make up the brightest, most accessible album of Papa Wemba’s career.

Further reading

And The Beat Goes On: A profile of Remmy Ongala

Remmy Ongala was Tanzania's most famous musician and originator of the bongo beat.

14 African musical styles for you to explore

Zimbabwean musician and teacher Chartwell Dutiro talks us through 14 musical styles from Africa.