Mbongwana Star is a Congolese band from Kinshasa, which in musical terms was once number one in Africa. Of the seven members of the band, two of them (Coco Ngabali and Theo Nzonza) were among the founding members of Staff Benda Bilili, a band of street hustlers, both handicapped and able-bodied, and named it a local beer joint. Coco and Theo left the band in 2013 and within months Coco had begun composing songs and gathering musicians for a new project: Mbongwana Star.
Coco and Théo knew that they had to look beyond the rumba funk of Staff Benda Bilili and find a new direction. One day the filmmaker Renaud Barret played them an album called Black Voices, by the Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, which was produced by Liam Farrell, aka Doctor L. “That’s it!” was Theo’s reaction. “That’s the direction we should go in. Because mbongwana means ‘change’. Because that’s the future.” After the first recording sessions with Doctor L he took the masters back to Paris and the alchemy began: rhythms were laid bare, voices honed, guitars given a new sonic garb. The result was revolutionary. When Coco and Théo heard the demos, it was a shock, but a happy one. World Circuit’s Nick Gold heard the demos and immediately signed the band to the label, on which they released their debut album, From Kinshasa, in 2015. The album received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to Metacritic.