Moreno Batamba is a much overlooked musician. Born in 1955, Batamba Wenda Morris (aka Moreno) grew up in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formally Zaire). By the age of 16 he decided to drop out of school to completely focus on making music. During the 1970s, the popular music scenes shifted to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In 1974 Moreno joined Jojo Ikomo of orchestra Bana Ngenge and moved to Uganda. Shortly after, Bana Ngenge (aka Bana Moja) brought the group to Nairobi, which became the center of African music recording with well-equipped studios and a thriving club scene. However, by 1976 Bana Ngenge had dissolved, leaving Moreno and Jojo Ikomo on their own until they joined Orchestra Les Noirs, led by Kalembi Mukaputu (aka Kajos). In 1978, Moreno left Orchestra Les Noirs and headed for Dar-es-Salaam where he joined Orchestra Safari Sound and later, Kiauri Voice.
By 1980, Moreno had returned to Nairobi and was noticed by Babu Shah Megs and Nderitu Munene. They saw a great deal of artistic talent in Moreno and helped foster his career, leading to the creation of the orchestra, Moja-One. Sterns Music has recently released Sister Pili + 2, which is the 1983 album Moreno recorded with L’Orch First Moja-One in addition to a pair of tracks from a 1977 session with the orchestra Bana Nzadi, which included Sammy Kasule, Coco Zigo Mike and Madjo Maduley. Moreno’s soulful, husky voice shines all over this record as he sings in English, French, Lingala and Swahili. His ace guitarist, Mokili Sesti (who later joined Orchestre Virunga along with Moreno), rips sweet notes throughout Sister Pili. The two tracks recorded with Bana Nzadi are rare cuts that most African music fans have never heard before. All of the lengthy Congolese grooves on Sister Pili + 2 ebb and flow like the tide, mesmerizing listeners with trance-like polyrhythmic perfection. Unfortunately Moreno Batamba’s illustrious career was cut short in 1993 when he passed away at the young age of 38. Sterns Music always does a wonderful job exposing new listeners to incredible music that has been out of print or unavailable for some time. Moreno and L’Orch First Moja-One’s Sister Pili + 2 is no exception. Look out for this gem wherever fine music is sold.