In Summary

  • Today, a very popular topic of discussion is on the fate of  the ‘Franco orphans’ – members of his TP OK Jazz, a huge ensemble of nearly 50 musicians.

  • Some, like his long-serving deputy Lutumba Simaro Massiya, have kept his legacy alive for nearly three decades.

  • Franco’s story, however, is incomplete without the mention of Pascal Rochereau, later known as Tabu Ley, who, incidentally, also died in a Belgian hospital two years ago.

It is 26 years since Congolese music maestro Luambo Luanzo Makiadi’s death. Popularly known as Franco, the TP OK Jazz band leader and guitarist contributed massively to the growth of popular Lingala music.

As happens at this time of the year, there is excitement in Kinshasa and elsewhere on the continent. His fans will this weekend be involved in various musical shows marking the anniversary.

At his death in a Belgian hospital in 1989, Franco left behind a massive discography. It is estimated that he recorded 300 albums and over 1,000 songs.

Franco was a born leader who was adept at identifying and nurturing talent. Many of the big stars of his period like Ndombe Opetum, Youlou Mabiala, Madilu System, Lutumba Simaro, and Sam Mangwna flourished under his wings.

Today, a very popular topic of discussion is on the fate of  the ‘Franco orphans’ – members of his TP OK Jazz, a huge ensemble of nearly 50 musicians.

Some, like his long-serving deputy Lutumba Simaro Massiya, have kept his legacy alive for nearly three decades.

Franco’s story, however, is incomplete without the mention of Pascal Rochereau, later known as Tabu Ley, who, incidentally, also died in a Belgian hospital two years ago.

Tabu Ley’s second anniversary will be marked next month.

Both men made a huge contribution to music not just in DRC, but also in Belgium, where they recorded some of their music and performed in various cities. There is a sizeable population of Congolese in Belgium and France.Having begun performing in 1955, Franco would establish himself with great compositions ranging from his debut song, "Bolingo na Ngai na Beatrice"to the blockbuster, Mario, a duet with Madilu System.

Some of Franco’s musical orphans — Simaro, Josky Kiambukuta and Prince Youlou Mabiala — have been battling with ill health in recent years.

Simaro will always be remembered for his efforts to try and keep the TP OK’s name alive, amid opposition from Franco’s family. To avoid an ugly fight, Simaro and almost the entire group of musicians formed a new band, Bana OK.

Among the Bana OK was Ndombe Opetum, who died in May 2012.

In Kinshasa today, there will be concerts by some members of the Bana OK.

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