In Summary
  • His vast discography, ranging from the 1960s through to the 1990s, is one that rhumba fans cherish.
  • Simaro was never fond of travelling outside Kinshasa.
  • In his last trip to Europe, he was forced to travel to France for a medical check-up and treatment.

With Kinshasa preparing for the funeral of rhumba musician Lutumba Simaro Massiya, his ardent fans in Kenya, including doctors, radio broadcasters, scholars and a seasoned trade unionist, have been paying tributes to their idol.

The fans are yet to come to terms with the death of a man who was the longest-serving vice-president of the great TPOK Jazz band, which was led by Franco. TPOK Jazz was founded in 1956 and was for close to three decades in the forefront of musical entertainment in the DR Congo.

Though many did not understand the message in the lyrics in the Lingala language, they listened, danced and sang to the genius of his compositions. The band master, who was popularly known as Le Poete (the poet), wowed and carried fans along for many decades.

His vast discography, ranging from the 1960s through to the 1990s, is one that rhumba fans cherish.

Fellow veteran Congolese musician Kiamuangana Mateta Verckys told the Saturday Nation that several artistes and government officials from Kinshasa would travel to Paris to ferry the body home for a state burial. His burial date is yet to be confirmed.

A remarkable feat by Simaro, who died at 81 on March 30, 2019, was his choice of commanding solo voices in some of his most popular compositions. Some of the most notable songs featuring lone vocalists were “Mabele” (Sam Mangwana), “Kadima” (Djo Mpoyi), “Ebale ya Zaire” (Sam Mangwana), “Faute Ya Commercant”, (Sam Mangwana), “Maya” (Carlito Lassa), “Testament ya Bowule” (Malage Lugendo), “Mandola” (Djo Mpoyi), “Mbongo” (Djo Mpoyi), “Dati Petrole” (Madilu System) and “Mobali ya Bato” (Mbilia Bel).

Aids researcher and consultant psychiatrist Dr Sobbie Mulindi deeply cherishes his moments with Simaro, whom he first met in Kinshasa and later Nairobi in the early 1980s.

“My first encounter with Simaro was at a club in Kinshasa and later at the Memling Hotel in Kinshasa, where we had dinner,” he said.

TPOK BAND

In TPOK, Simaro was a close confidant of Franco and was seen as the silent hand behind the running of the band. Being fluent in French, Dr Mulindi found it easy to get around in Kinshasa.

Simaro was never fond of travelling outside Kinshasa. In his last trip to Europe, he was forced to travel to France for a medical check-up and treatment.

“During live shows, I watched him quietly strumming his guitar as the rest of the band members danced,” Dr Mulindi said.

He also met Simaro when the band toured Kenya in 1983 and he was flanked by Kenyan twist legend Daudi Kabaka. His favourite songs by Simaro are “Bisalela” and “Mbongo” and the rhumba ballad “Gege Yoka”.

London-based veteran Congolese guitarist Mose Fan Fan, of the “Papa Lolo” hit song fame, earlier this week recalled that when he joined TPOK Jazz in 1968, Simaro and Franco were the key guitarists.

“I was invited to join the band as a lead guitarist through the encouragement of Simaro, who was very kind to me throughout my stay in the group,” Mose said.

He performed alongside immensely talented guitarist Celi Bishou, who composed the “Infidilte Mado”. Other notable band members were Vicky Longomba, Youlou Mabiala and Lola Checain. Mose was recognised as amongst those by then able to play the solo guitar with Franco’s deft touch.

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