The music of Elie Mabanza is born from his roots in Africa and influenced by his love of rhythm, harmony and a need to tell his story through song.
Elie picked up guitar at age 10 after playing percussion in his church from age 8. His brother taught him the basics and he took it from there, developing his own chords and rhythmic style. Music consumed him, he practiced relentlessly and is completely self taught.
His father forbade his brother and him to play music until they graduated High School, fearful they would not get an education and be unable to support themselves. The boys, with the help of an understanding mother, snuck practicing in when papa wasn’t home. Once Elie graduated from High School, he began to play full time, first on the streets and soon getting gigs at restaurants and parties. Word spread of his talent; he had a little money in his pocket; he was becoming well known. With the birth of his son, Prince, Elie was doubly motivated and until the war turned his life into chaos, he was providing for his son and the boys' mother, sometimes on only $100 a month. Life was very rough in his native Congo and music helped him to survive financially and emotionally.
Elie’s “guitar gently weeps” while he paints pictures of both his pain and his joy with his beautiful, haunting voice. In his songs, he tells stories about his life in Africa. Most are sung in French, many in his native Congolese.
Elie says his goal is to bring music to the world, so people have a better understanding that “life is life and people are people everywhere, even in the midst of terrible suffering.” He is a survivor against all odds and feels deep gratitude for his life and his music. The beauty and depth of his musical gifts are truly irresistible to the ear and the heart. Elie currently resides in Santa Cruz, California.