Angela Chibalonza Runiga was born on November 26, 1976 in Bukavu, eastern Congo-Kinshasa. She enjoyed music right from childhood. After completing secondary school in 1996, Chibalonza moved to Kenya the following year in what she described as her responce to a call from God to serve Him in the 35-million East African nation and also to pursue her music career.
Though she had sang in the choir and even rose to choir leadership since 1992 when she got saved aged 15 years, Chibalonza had not recorded any music in her native Congo. Thus her travel to Nairobi to embark on a music career was appreciated and encouraged by her Christian parents and 10 siblings. In Kenya, the budding musician released her maiden album, Nikuabudu. She followed it up with Jina la Yesu the following year, in 1998.
In 1999, she released Mwisho wa Dunia and thereafter Ninapotembea. Angela’s popular albums sold well across the Kiswahili-speaking eastern and central Africa. She endeared herself and warmed her way into the hearts of hundreds of music lovers – even among those that do not profess Christianity – in her rich vocals that she delivered through live performances in churches and at open-air public Christian meetings.
Her music albums have sold in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and in other parts of the world where Kiswahili, Lingala and French are spoken. “I am famous in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Congo but I have no money to show for it. I am content serving God,” Chibalonza often used to say. In 2004, Kora All Africa Music Awards nominated Chibalonza for Best Gospel Female Artist award for Jubilee, off Yahwe Uhimidiwe album.
She did not win but it was clear that her talent was now in the public domain. In her Kora nomination profile, the musician says, “Jina la Yesu made history in my musical career; it made me the Angela I am today. I got to be known in Kenya and in East and Central Africa. I have released other albums like Ninapotembea, Nzambe Papa, and Nakuabudu. Yahwe Uhimidiwe is the new album I release in January this year. It contains the song Jubilee, which is the song I have submitted for the Kora All Africa Music Awards 2004.”
Singing mainly in Lingala and Kiswahili and at times in French, Runiga was set to release her latest album, Nimekutana na Yesu (I have Met With Jesus), at Nairobi Cinema in Nairobi, on September 29, 2007. This was never to be. On September 22, 2007, Angela, her driver, Kennedy Aluoch, and vocalist, Nimrod Makori, perished in a ghastly morning road accident at Kinale, on the Naivasha-Nairobi highway while they were returning to Nairobi from a performance at Egerton University in Njoro.
The shocking news of her death filtered across Kenya via radio and television. Some said that Chibalonza, whose first name means angel, “has been called to go and lend her voice to the angels in praise of God up in heaven”. Runiga also sang in languages like Luganda to cut across language barriers. Oh Yesu Wange off her Ninapotembea (Whenever I Walk) album, for instance, is in Luganda. Runiga leaves behind her husband and pastor of four years, Elisha Muliri.