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Remembering Franco Luambo Makiadi Rhumba “Grand Maître”

5 Min Read

Exactly 33 years ago, the Congolese Rhumba music wizard breathed his last on October 12 1989 in Mont-Godinne, in Belgium.

He was a major figure in 20th-century Congolese music, and African music in general, principally as the leader for over 30 years of TPOK Jazz, the most popular and significant African band of its time.

He was born on July 6th, 1938 in Sona bata in the current province of Kongo central, of an Anamongo father and a Ne Kongo mother.

He was a fragile child, who is why his mother nicknamed him Makiadi and he would later become L’Okanga Lwa Djo Pene Luambo Makiadi following the policy of recourse to authenticity.

He Converted to Islam in 1981, he will become, without the knowledge of his fans, Aboubakar Sidiki, a name he will never engrave on his records.

“This wizard” of the guitar, as some of his fans nicknamed him, made his musical debut at the age of 15, not far from the family plot on Bosenge street n ° 100, in the municipality of Ngiri Ngiri, where his mother was a tenant, he joined Ebengo Dewayon’s Watam group under the yoke of the Loningisa house, then joined OK Jazz where he became a songwriter, singer, guitarist, storyteller, publisher, leader of men and disturber.

He forged his own guitar style and was among the first Congolese to have played the electric guitar, probably the first to do so, unlike other famous groups. He will quickly impose himself on the national, and even African, musical scene.

His notoriety still seems intact following the vastness of his work which often highlights the daily life of Kinshasa society.

Describing social facts such as the lack of good manners « Ozalaka très impoli » (You have always been very impolite) or even jealousy « Mbanda akoti kikumbi » (My rival frequents occult houses against me)

Franco feminist artist and political analyst ahead of his time

A fine observer of daily life, he became a fighter for women’s causes with correspondence from more than 12,000 African women telling him about the conflicting relationships they had with their rivals or with the sisters of their husbands. Hence the song called “12,600 letters”.

Franco even quietly attacked the very governance of his country. But, by using metaphors to denounce the anti-values ​​that plagued the political class of the time through the tube « Tailor », a pamphlet for this elite clinging to positions.

“Olobaki trop na esika yango, bati yo pembeni, loba lisusu, papa” (what remains of your arrogance now that you have just been removed from your post?).

In the same line there is the title « Lettre à Monsieur le DG » from the album « Lisanga ya banganga » (Reunion of the high priests, in Lingala), released in 1985 and recorded with the singer-songwriter Pascal Tabu Ley Rochereau, patron of the Afrisa International orchestra whose chorus catches the attention of music lovers “Ozalaka kaka moto, DG” (you are only a human being DG”.

And to continue: “Entourage esalaka mabe po nini?” (The entourage causes harm, why?), a fashionable practice in a Zaire where chiefs are protected in their domains by hordes of courtiers.

“Becoming master of his guitar, Luambo tamed all of African and Congolese society. He will censor and vilify everyone and all social strata. Everyone will feel targeted in their song. It even overflowed to the point of being called to order by justice,” declared shortly after his death, Oscar Tatanene Manata, Ambassador of Zaire (DRC) to the United States.

The Grand Maître « Franco Demi Amor” decked out with the appellation « Sorcerer of the guitar » is one of the African monuments of this string instrument with countless records recorded in Lingala and Kikongo.