Pascal Lokua Kanza was born in Zaire, the first of eight children.
After his father died tragically while captaining a ship at sea, Kanza helped provide for his family by taking part-time jobs while he was still in school. Setting aside a few hours each day to teach himself guitar, he soon began playing with friends in local bands. As he got older, his approach to music grew more serious. After studying at the Kinshasa Music Conservatory and performing with Abeti in Zaire, Kanza moved to the Ivory Coast for a fresh start. For three years, he played guitar and handled vocal duties for a handful of African bar bands. After being accepted to Paris' prestigious CIM, Kanza moved there to study jazz and was given the opportunity to perform with many of his role models. Working with Franky Vincent, La Mafia, Ray Lema, and Papa Wemba, Kanza continued to carve out his own style while making valuable connections. In 1991, he joined the Soul Makossa Gang after adopting his middle name as his performance moniker. 1992 saw Kanza debut his own material, first in a performance with Angélique Kidjo and later on his first solo offering. Intent on honoring his musical heritage, Kanza crafted an album of honest and intimate songs in a small studio, while keeping post-production to a minimum. The accolades that followed helped Kanza attract the attention of Youssou N'Dour, who invited Kanza to sing on Womat. In 1994, he reunited with Papa Wemba at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios to lend his talents on Emotion. His experiences that year culminated at the African Music Awards when in December, he was awarded Best African Album for his solo debut. In 1995 Kanza released his second effort, Wapi Yo. After working with Geoffrey Oryema later that year, Kanza picked up his second African Music Award. In 1998, he appeared on Natalie Merchant's Ophelia and began work on his third album. 3 expanded where Wapi Yo left off, featuring a broader, more orchestral sound. In 2002, he returned to subtlety, releasing Toyebi Te'. Although the folk-tinged album was a more restrained affair than 3, Kanza brought in a variety of guests ranging from his own children to Sylvain Luc, to lend their talents. ~ Don Kline