In Summary
  • Simaro was a long-serving vice-president of the legendary TPOK Jazz founded by his mentor Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi, who died in Belgium in 1989.
  • The man fondly known to his legion of fans as ‘Le Poete’ (the poet), for his lyrical compositions that have yielded some of the greatest rhumba songs ever, succumbed to a long illness, according to his family members.
  • Several musicians of repute, among them Kenyans Joseph Kamaru and Ayub Ogada, Zimbabwean Oliver Mutukudzi and Congolese Dodo Munoko, have died in recent times.

The death of one of Africa’s greatest musicians, Lutumba Ndumanueno Simaro Massiya, brings the curtain down on the career of yet another rhumba colossus who has provided solid entertainment across the continent for over half a century.

Simaro, who was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo on March 19, 1938, died on Saturday.

News of the death in Paris, France of the master composer, consummate guitarist and vocalist, threw the rhumba music fraternity into deep mourning.

TPOK JAZZ

Simaro was a long-serving vice-president of the legendary TPOK Jazz founded by his mentor Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi, who died in Belgium in 1989.

The band was among those that made music from the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) the ubiquitous sound of Africa. It has a massive fanbase in Kenya that spans generations.

The music is mostly sung in Lingala, sometimes with a tinge of Kiswahili, French and a range of Congolese languages.

After he joined TPOK Jazz in 1961, Simaro excelled as a composer and arranger, teaming up with Mujos, Kwammy, Picole, Simon Moke, Isaac Musekiwa and Dessoin.

He had replaced Bolhem, who had joined the rival Negro Success, where the grand master Franco’s younger half-brother, the late Bavon Marie Marie, was a leading vocalist.

'THE POET'

The man fondly known to his legion of fans as ‘Le Poete’ (the poet), for his lyrical compositions that have yielded some of the greatest rhumba songs ever, succumbed to a long illness, according to his family members.

He had been suffering from diabetes and hypertension.

Salomon Lutumba confirmed his father’s death in a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday. He had recently travelled from Coventry City, England, to join the rest of his family when they called on his father.

But the death was an anti-climax, especially that it was only a few days ago that Salomon had been at the forefront of organising dedications for Simaro’s 81st birthday.

In the Facebook post, Salomon wrote: “Rest in peace, Papa. We always Love.”

GREAT COMPOSER

Simaro was based in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, most of his life — unlike the rest of his family, including his wife Hellen Nkelani, who lived in Paris.

Having retired from active music two years ago, he occasionally travelled to Europe for medical check-ups and treatment.

Most of his music counterparts said he never liked living in Europe even during his tenure with TPOK Jazz.

Speaking to the Nation from Luanda, Angola, veteran singer Sam Mangwana, also a former key member of the legendary ensemble, recalled with nostalgia Simaro’s musical works.

Rhumba enthusiasts will remember Simaro's hit compositions and household anthems such as "Maya", "Kadima", "Testament ya Bowule", "Mandola”, "Mbongo" and "Faute ya Commercante".

“Gone is a great composer, who we will always remember his poetic lyrics,” said Mangwana, also a popular rhumba musician with a huge following across east and central Africa, including Kenya.

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