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Throwback: Gabon’s President, Ali Bongo Was Once a Budding Musician

Did you know that the current Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba was was a party-goer and a budding musician before he joined his father’s cabinet in 1989?

Back in 1977, Bongo released a soulful and funky album titled “A Brand New Man’ under the name “Alain Bongo”. On the LP he sounds like James Brown, which is understandable considering the Godfather of Soul’s former manager helped him record it.

In the same year, 1977, he made a nationwide tour with a 30-piece American orchestra in a tour dubbed ‘Alain Bongo and his America orchestra’. He also did a live hip-hop performance at the Gabao Hip Hop festival.
In 2009, while Ali was running to replace his late father Omar Bongo Ondimba (Africa’s longest serving leader) he updated his musical repertoire.

Videos on YouTube reveal a rapping Ali Bongo bouncing on stage with Gabon’s hip-hop community. During this campaign, Ali portrayed himself as “Le candidat des jeunes,’” the youthful candidate. It worked – he won.

On the day of my hip hop tour of Gabon, the government sponsored a free streetside concert with Amenem, Tina and Ba’Ponga warming up the stage for Senegalese-born U.S hip-hop star Akon.

The president still plays drums and the piano and has even composed some Jazz songs. He also did the soundtrack for a Gabonese film.


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