Filed under: Zaïre
The Belgian Congo achieved independence on June 30, 1960 under the name “Republic of the Congo” (“République du Congo”). Shortly thereafter, the provinces of Katanga and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new government. And factions within the recently elected resident Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba only made matters worse.
Meanwhile, Joseph Mobutu, who was the chief of staff of the Armee Nationale Congolaise, decided to take advantage of the situation. Since Mobutu was receiving financial support from the United States and Belgium, he could pay his soldiers privately. And with this power, he garnered enough support within the army to lead a coup. With the assistance of UN forces, the Katanga secession ended two years later in 1963.
The following year, the country changed its name to Democratic Republic of the Congo to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo. A quick succession of several short-lived governments eventually led to a stalemate and threatened the country’s stability. In 1965, Mobutu seized power of the presidency (again with United States backing) – who later renamed the country Zaïre in 1971.
During those years of unrest, neighboring Tanzania, Uganda and near by Kenya were inundated with Zaïrian refugees. Many of these were musicians who settled in East Africa and tended to dominate urban music scenes.
Initially known as Bana Kibushi Batano, the band was formed in Lubumbashi by Vicky Numbi. In 1965, the band moved to Kigoma, Tanzania. It was there that the band received their new name – Hi-Fives – from an American Catholic priest. Two years later, they came Kenya to join fellow Congolese musician Pascal Onema, and Zambians Nashil Pitchen and Peter Tsotsi, who were with the Equator Sounds Band in Nairobi.
Orchestre Hi-Fives are credited for creating the Mpete wa Kibushi style which became very popular in Kenya. The band recorded over a dozen singles and at least three albums. After the break up of the band, Vicky Numbi joined Orchestra Super Mazembe, who were active up until the 1990s. In 2004, it was announced that the band was going to be “revived”. Renamed Kibushi Sounds Band, Vicky Numbi was in the process of recruiting new musicians as well as plans to record and tour.