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Ferre Gola: King or prince of rumba?

 International Congolese artist Ferre Gola (Photo: David Gichuru/ Standard)

Move over Koffi Olomide, the rumba crown has two main contenders today, Ferre Gola and Fally Ipupa, both Congolese. And while Fally Ipupa might be the 'Prince of Rumba', the crown is Ferre Gola's to lose.

Now after Fally Ipupa, who performed in Nairobi on September 30, the next big Congolese rumba star to come calling might just be his biggest rival, Ferre Gola. He will be at the Nairobi Polo Club, on December 2.

But who is this talented artiste with a fabled meteoric rise to fame?

Ferre, fondly known as Papa na Malina was born in Kinshasa 47 years ago.

An acquaintance of his who knew Ferre Golawell from their early days in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, lifts the lid on his life.

“I have known Ferre from the days he had nothing to his name,” says Mfumu Kimbango, a Congolese national who presents rumba music at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

“Perhaps his only facet that I am not sure of is his marital status. But I can vouch that Ferre is a father to many children,” says Mfumu with a wry smile

He says Ferre (born Harve Gola Bataringe) was raised by a single mother after his father walked out on his family.

He went through primary and secondary education in Kinshasa. Here his inborn talent mutated into an engine that after school powered his desire to explore the fertile music grounds the city is known for.

He began his music career as a member of the original Wenge Musica band that featured Stewarts Werason and JB Moiana before the group split.

His career was born at a performance by Wenga Musica, with band leader Maison Merre Werrason Ngiama Makanda as the midwife.

 Ferre Gola performing at KICC grounds in 2017 (Photo: David Gichuru/ Standard) 

"He simply eclipsed the others when given a chance to sing and was picked instantly as a band member. He was 17, dripping with youthful energy and ambition to surge above the clouds in his chosen pursuit," says Mfumu.

His most memorable contribution was in the song  'Vita Imana' in the 'Solo La Bien' album. 

Kenyan-based Congolese music promoter Jules Nsana says Ferre is still on good terms with Werrason, fondly known as Rois de la Forest (King of the forest). 

He describes Ferre as a philanthropist who has taken to rehabilitating street children in his native DRC. He says vocalist Chikito, who features in some of Ferre's videos, is one of the beneficiaries. 

When Wenge Musica broke up, Ferre joined the legendary Kofi Olomide in 2002.

He parted ways with Olomide a year later. 

Determined to cut a unique niche for himself, Ferre went solo In 2006, and has never looked back since.  

And he is truly unique. Unlike many of his peers who have drifted away from the original rumba sound, he has revamped it.

He added another feather to his cap, having been signed by Sonny International Music with the release of his latest album ‘Dynasty’.

The Kora award-winning musician has secured an enviable niche for himself and attracts admiration and controversy in equal measure. He is the fulcrum of a 17-member band.

His performance in December will mark the sensational maestro’s continued dalliance with Kenya since 1997 when he came as part of Wenge Musica.

“This is one event rumba fans cannot afford to miss,” says Nsana.

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