MY BEST 10 BANDS AND ARTISTS FROM CONGO YOU NEED TO KNOW (For the Love of Rumba.)
Congolese artists are legends that have filled the world’s biggest concert halls and people have long loved, cried, lived and danced to the rhythms of Congolese beats. Congolese music has been king on the African music scene. From Rumba Congolaise ballads Soukous and Ndombolo, here are the best 10 Congolese bands and musicians you should be listening to right now.
Franco Luambo Makiadi
Franco Luambo Makiadi will forever remain in the collective memory of the Congolese as the undisputed “King of Rumba”. Most commonly referred to as Franco, he was nicknamed the “Sorcerer of the Guitar,” as he mastered the skills of playing fluidly with seemingly little effort. During a span of 40 years in the music industry, Franco produced over 100 albums and approximately 1,000 songs to his name. His music blended Cuban rumba with local Congolese rhythms, attracting both the young and the elderly. His influence can be heard in local music today and remains popular in nightclubs.
Fally Ipupa is currently one of the most popular artists in the DR Congo, he is ranked among the nation’s pride. He first became popular through Quartier Latin International, a group of singers that would accompany Koffi Olomide in singing and dancing, before Olomide started featuring Ipupa alone. Desiring to separate himself from his mentor, Ipupa decided to launch his solo career, mixing the local Soukous and Ndombolo with R&B beats. Ipupa is also known through his self-proclaimed, and quite elaborate, nicknames such as “Di Caprio,” “Anelka,” and “El Maravilloso.” No Congolese party would be complete without Ipupa songs such as “droit chemin” , “ko ko ko ko” and “A Flyé ” playing at least once.
Regardless of the popular hits and artists of the moment, the first name that comes to mind when thinking about Congolese music and rumba is the late Papa Wemba. Papa Wemba was such an important figure in Congolese music that it was nearly impossible to compete with him. With songs such as “Analengo,” Papa Wemba was not only one of the most popular artists in Africa, but also a prominent figure in world music.
From an early age, he was passionate about becoming a professional musician. Ferré Gola a.k.a “Le Padre” began his career in a band in Bandalungwa commune called “Rumba des Jeunes” before making his historic entry in “Wenge Musica” in 1995. The first song in the orchestra Ferré Wenge MMM entitled “Vita Imana” from the “Solola Bien.” This song has been well appreciated by music lovers and then comes “Victim of Love“. This, the song was taken from the album “A la queue leu leu.” At the dissolution of this group, Ferré Gola joined Werrason in “Maison mère” for 7 years, before creating with Bill Cliton and Jus d’été “Marquess of Maison mère”. But, “Les Marquis” burst out a few months later after the triumphant release of the opus “Miracles”, best album at the KORA awards 2005 in Africa South.
Real name Hervé Gola Bateringe, Ferré has made an exceptional artistic journey which has earned him his current success. His first solo album, Sens interdit, had a huge success in Kinshasa, as well as in France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, where everyone rushed to buy the album. He is well known for his work, and is surrounded by a team of young ladies and gentlemen who are well-established both in his administration and in his orchestra, among others: Chikito, Kunzardo, Charly Solo, Mark House, Guy Digital, De Gaulle and others. Before embracing the solo career, Ferré Gola produced five songs including Vita Imana, Victime d’amour , 100 Kilos, Amour Intèret, Insecticide and others.
With several gold records in his career, Koffi Olomide is a superstar of fast Soukous / Ndombolo music. He is a producer, composer, dancer, and singer whose fame extends worldwide. He has succeeded in filling the biggest mega-venues in France that many French artists themselves have not managed to pack. Koffi is also known by a variety of self-proclaimed nicknames such as “Mopao Mokonzi” (translating as “the chief”), “le Maximum,” and “Lettre A,” referring to the first letter of the alphabet. “Effrakata Loi” and “Force de Frappe” are two of his songs you need to know. Right now he released a new Song speaking of the Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) pandemic is called “Coronavirus Assassin”
Zaiko Langa Langa
The band was founded in 1969, Zaiko Langa Langa is a seminal Congolese soukous band responsible for the hit song “Vimba“. They have remained popular through several decades, surviving until the 2000s. The word Zaiko is a shortened version of the lingala sentence “Zaire ya bankoko,” which translates as “Zaire of our ancestors,” Zaire referring to the river now known as the Congo; “Langa Langa” translates as “marvelous.” Known for having a hippie and rebel attitude, the band became a symbol of the post-independence generation. Their large appeal to the youth of the DR Congo has led to numerous comparisons between them and the Rolling Stones. Over the years, a number of important soukous artists have joined the band, including Papa Wemba. In 2000, the Congolese Media Association recognized the band as the “best Congolese music group of the 20th century.”
Seigneur Tabu ley Rochereau
It would be a crime to mention Congolese music without the mention of Tabu Ley. During his lifetime, Seigneur Tabu Ley Rochereau was a prominent Congolese rumba singer, a prolific songwriter, one of the continent’s most important vocalists, and a politician. He is also the father of the French rapper Youssoupha and 67 other children. Over the years, Rochereau produced 250 music albums and composed around 3,000 songs, most commonly Muzina. He was also known as the bandleader of Orchestre Afrisa International. A pioneer in soukous music along with his guitarist Dr Nico Kasanda, Rochereau also drew on international elements, such as Caribbean, Cuban, and Latin American rumba, which he fused with Congolese folk music. He has been described as the “African Elvis.”
Born in Bukavu in the eastern part of the DRC to a Congolese father and a Rwandese mother, Lokua Kanza is a singer and songwriter best known for his smooth ballads. His style is more mainstream compared to the others on this list, as he takes a more modern traditional approach to Congolese music. “Wapi Yo” might be his most popular song, but his entire repertoire is full of great material for easy listening. In Europe, Kanza is well known within the acoustic music scene.
As famous across the country as Koffi Olomide, Werrason is one of Olomide’s biggest competitor. They both have a vast ndombolo music repertoire, are amazing dancers with a similar style, share a well-known pride and arrogance, and have a very large fan base nationwide. However, Werrason is less famous abroad. Contrary to Olomide who adds some poetry into his music, Werrason is a master of the ndombolo (soukous) in its purest form. In his early teenage years, Werrason won a martial arts contest and was nicknamed “Tarzan, le Roi de la Forêt.” This later shortened to “Roi de la Forêt,” meaning the king of the forest, as he is known today.
The band was formed in 1956 in Kinshasha in what was at the time the Belgian Congo. The name OK Jazz originated from the bar in which they played which was named OK Bar, they played regularly at a specific studio in the city during the week and on some weekends they played at weddings. The band had big names like Vicky Longomba, Essous, Franco Luambo Makiadi and many more. TPOK Jazz had many members over the nearly thirty-eight years of its existence. A small fraction of the hundreds of records and albums released by TPOK Jazz during the thirty-seven and a half years of the band’s existence includes On Entre OK On Sort KO,Nganda Ma Campagne and Nabali Misele there many more I could list.
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