In Summary
  • One of the biggest exports to Democratic Republic of Congo from its neighbour across the river is, rather interestingly, the silky talent of legendary vocalist Prince Youlou Mabiala.
  • Many of the fans of the legendary TP OK Jazz band will remember the close association Youlou Mabiala had with his boss, Luambo Makiadi with the Brazzaville-born singer marrying Franco’s daughter.
  • After Franco’s death, Mabiala being a close member of the family through marriage, continued using the TP OK jazz brand name. This was the case as the other musicians, including Lutumba Simaro Massiya who went ahead to form Bana OK.

One of the biggest exports to Democratic Republic of Congo from its neighbour across the river is, rather interestingly, the silky talent of legendary vocalist Prince Youlou Mabiala.

For over two decades, back home in Brazzaville, Mabiala is still fondly remembered as one of the best members of the legendary Congolese band, TP OK Jazz, which was founded by Franco (Luambo Luanzo Makiadi) in the mid 1950s.

Mabiala lent his excellent vocals to the recording of great songs such as Asumani, Kamikaze, and Motema Na Ngai Television, earning admiration and fame across East and Central Africa, West and Southern Africa.

But all has not been well for Mabiala in recent years.

His mentor Franco, the man who lured him from Brazzaville to Kinshasa in the 1960s, and turned him into a star, died in 1989, and the big band, which his musicians tried to keep alive, later crumbled.

Former long-serving band vice-president Lutumba Simaro Masiya, to avoid a feud with Franco’s family over the management of TP OK Jazz, led almost all the musicians to found Bana OK.

It was evident from the name that they wanted to keep alive a legacy that lifted them out of obscurity.

The soft-spoken and amiable Mabiala retreated to Brazzaville, and was for a while keen to keep the band’s name alive in Kinshasa and also across the River Congo. But it was obvious that his solo effort would not do much.

His health didn’t help matters. However, his many fans who adore his sweet, high-pitched voice, will be pleased to hear that he is determined to return to what he does best - making music.

The veteran singer and composer who has been offstage for the past nine years, recuperating from a mild stroke, has recovered, well enough to seriously consider a return to making music once again.

Though he may no longer be able to rock the stage with his alluring vocals due to long-term effects of the illness he suffered in August of 2004, reports from Paris indicate that he will be concentrating on songwriting, an area where he excelled.

Musicians still fondly referred to him as le grand maître (the great master.)

Recently, Mabiala, perhaps the biggest musician to come out of The Republic of Congo, which is also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville, released his first single after a long time. The song was dedicated to Congo-Brazzaville President Dennis Sassou Nguesso.

Congo Brazzaville has for years been dwarfed by its bigger neighbour, Congo-Kinshasa, which many consider the Mecca of African music.

According to Paris-based Congolese crooner Nyboma Mwandido, the new Youlou Mabiala song is in appreciation of the support President Nguesso has been giving Youlou Mabiala ever since he was taken ill.

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