Bayimba International Festival header image

Leo Mkanyia

Leo Mkanyia

Swahili Blues Explosion 

Swahili Blues Explosion are an East African group dedicated to taking the coastal sound of Swahili blues to new heights, thru the combination of pan-African influences and western jazz-funk. Led by Tanzanian guitar maestro Leo Mkanyia and Ugandan saxophone prodigy Caesar Kajura, this is an East African band set to take the world by storm. 

Leo Mkanyia

Leo is a vibrant young composer, multi-instrumentalist, and performer from Dar es Salaam. Leo was born in Dar es Salaam in 1981. Leo began playing the guitar when he was eight years old. His father is an African jazz guitarist who played with the renowned Mlimani Park Orchestra. Leo spent years playing his father’s guitar when he was alone in the house and copying the chords, which he’d seen him play. Music doesn’t pay in Tanzania, and so his father was adamant his son should follow another career. When he found Leo playing a classic Tanzanian song one day, he decided to give his son his wish, and taught him all that he knew. 

Mulatu Astatke, legendary Ethiopian Jazz musician, described Leo’s music as “fantastic” during a Tanzania Ethiopia fusion project that brought Leo to Addis Ababa in 2015 and 2017. Biyi Adepegba, Art Director of Joyful Noise Recordings UK and the London African Music Festival described Leo’s music as “blues which recalls the wonder of the King of African Blues Ali Farka Toure”. Rachel Doyle from the New York Times admired the “mix of Tanzanian drumming with blues melodies and dansi”. Tabu Osusa, Director of Ketebul Music in Nairobi and producer of Leo’s third CD praised Leo’s “multi- instrumentalism and his strong ability to perform and record live

Caesar Kajura

Born in 1989 with Asperger’s syndrome, Caesar hummed little tunes to himself, long before he could talk. After years of struggling to relate to school systems and making friends, one day a music teacher gave Caesar a set of percussion drums for a school performance and set the direction for his life. Despite his difficulties, Caesar’s adult- like behaviour, demeanour and sense of responsibility helped develop the discipline he needed for a career in music. 

When he moved to Zimbabwe in 2008, Tony Vas, a celebrated saxophonist in Harare introduced Caesar to jazz and he adopted the township rhythms of South Africa, evolving them into his unique afrofusion style which he performs in Kampala today. Caesar connects with people best through his music and uses this simple fact to raise awareness on a personal issue: Special Needs and Autism. 

Deno Bass

After learning to play bass at his local church, Deno’s natural gifts led to a top job, performing with Ugandan star Angela Kalule’s K’angie Band. He is passionate about jazz-funk and cites Richard Bonner and Hugh Masekela as his musical ancestors. 

Kalungi Da Drummer

Kalungi comes from a musical family and started playing percussion aged 5. He switched to drums when he was 18 and went on to play with the Undercover Brothers, Qwela Band and with top Ugandan artists like Madoz, Sheebah, Eddie Kenzo and Chameleon. He cites his musical influences as Lucky Dube, Bob Marley and Phil Collins.