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Rebuilding Kisumu walls that Franco ‘brought down’

By Phillip Orwa | August 2nd 2013

By Philip Orwa

Mario Nalembi eee...” This is Franco’s expression of the lamentation of a parent over the behaviour of his son, in his song — Mario.

The parent laments that despite spending so much on the son’s education, he continues to depend on him for everything including food, clothes and accommodation.

He complains Mario should go and look for a job.

An artiste never dies but continues to inspire the society in life and in death. Twenty-one years after his death Luambo Luanzo Makiadi’s voice still rings across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo and the rest of the world.

In homes, clubs and matatus, it is Franco soothing hearts and giving humanity hope. Memories of a 1988 incident are still fresh on Kisumu County residents’ minds.

The late Makiadi had visited Kisumu to host a show at Moi stadium, a venue currently being renovated by the Government and the FIFA at a cost of Sh85 million, where thousands of fans from all over East Africa had arrived to dance to his tunes such as Mario.

Those who arrived early secured spaces inside the venue. Thousands more were lining outside the stadium waiting for their turn to pay for the tickets and when the venue was full to capacity, all the gates were locked following consultations by event managers and security agents.


The crowd outside kept surging with an aim of getting a glimpse of how the veteran musician performed on stage.

Music that they only heard from their transistor radios or watched on television in the then Sanyo Tops programme that was broadcasted by one Fred Obachi Machoka in the then Voice of Kenya channel.

At the touch of the guitar, the Mario song tune that rented the air sent the crowd outside wild. They chose to force their way into the stadium.

The wall came crumbling down as fans scampered for safety, leaving a number of casualties.

Mario nalembi ee- (Mario am tired) Mario nabaye e ee (Mario I don’t like it), Lelo makambo lobi Makambo nalembi (Today problems, tomorrow problems, I am tired), Lelo bitumba lobi koswana nabaye e (Today Fighting, Tomorrow quarrelling, I hate it).’

In his 40-year music career, Franco, as he was commonly known, had more than 100 albums and about a thousand songs to his name, the Rhumba songs that made people go wild.


Even now, listening to Franco’s songs makes one feel the splendor of music, instruments, rhythm and sound.

His music still stands tall in the Rhumba world.

“I travelled from Nairobi to Kisumu using a train. I paid Sh2 as fare to Port Florence where we docked to go and witness the Rhumba maestro. Upon reaching the gate, I saw a sea of humanity, the queue was long, Franco was testing his wire (guitar) and we needed to get in but could not. We had to force our way,” says Julius Ouma, one of those who attended the 1988 show.

“Franco loved composing songs, he loved singing them and playing and as the lead guitarist, he acquired his skills at the feet of guitarists such as Paul Ebengo Dewayon an elder brother of the late Johnny Bokelo Isenge and Tino Baroza and inspiration from Joseph Kabasele Tshamala the father to Ochieng Luna Kidi,” Ouma adds.

Makiadi was born in 1938 at Sona Bata, about 45kiometres from Kinshasa, to Joseph Emongo and Mama Makiesse.

In 1956, Franco formed TPOK Jazz, incorporating several musicians from Congo Brazzaville.

“Kisumu was the town to be, I was in Form Two but had to use my pocket money to board a matatu to Kisumu to go and watch him play. My friends in Kisumu boarded the then famous Kondele taxis to join me,” says Tom Ogol.

Ogol was lucky to get into the stadium early enough but the moment the band members started playing the instruments; he saw the part overlooking the main dais going down with students who had sneaked from school and homes.

The wall came down, leaving several people injured.

Currently the stadium is being renovated, already the wall has been completed and the contractor is now doing the final touches of painting while the process of laying an artificial turf to make the stadium an international arena is set to be completed by September.





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