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What happened to TP OK Jazz after Franco's final melody?

 Rhumba maestro Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi. [File, Standard]

As the music fraternity commemorates the 34th anniversary of Rhumba legend Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi this week, the majority of fans are disturbed by the death of the ‘Mighty’ TP OK Jazz Band Orchestra!

They are still disturbed because the melodies of the legendary orchestra are still sweet, melodious and vivid in the minds of ardent rhumba fans.

The band ruled Africa and the entire world in Rhumba for over five decades until the death of Franco on October 12, 1989, when the reins of the band fell in the hands of Franco’s trusted deputy La Poete Lutumba Simarro Massiya.

Massiya was a trusted friend, who deputised his boss in all their home and overseas assignments throughout Makiadi’s lifetime and thereafter.

Massiya led a host of talented stars led by singers-cum-composers Madilu System, Josky Kiambukuta, Dalienst Ntesa, Mpudi Deca and Ndombe Opetum, among others to produce quite a number of popular hits immediately after the legend’s death.

The first album was Chandra Deschade Mwana Yuma by Kiambukuta, which calmed down those who feared the band would fall apart with Franco’s last dance.

Those who mainly supported Kiambukuta in the works of this album were De Lugendo, Madilu and Dalienst.

Massiya led the band for four years until 1993 when Franco’s family led by his only son among the 12 children, Emungu Makiadi demanded seventy percent from any royalties of the band.

 Rhumba maestro Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi. [Courtesy]

“That was the epitome of a looming break-up and a sudden fallout between the band members and Franco’s family. They (members) felt most of the donkey work was done by them hence they could not stand to be paid peanuts,” said Mfumu Kimbango, a veteran Franco associate and a legend Rhumba Kenyan-based promoter.

Kimbango said the end of TP OK Jazz Orchestra as Franco’s family felt they fully owned the outfit forgetting that human resource was crucial to the survival of the band.

As a result, star members moved on to form Orchestra Bana OK in December 1993, led by Massiya and star singers-cum-composers Madilu and Kiambukuta. TP OK Jazz Band Orchestra as a shell was left in the hands of Yuyu Mabiala who was Franco’s son-in-law having married Franco’s firstborn daughter.

The work was too much for Mabiala who could not single-handedly handle its success. He’s ailing in Paris, France.

“Mabiala could not manage the Mighty band without the support of experienced artists like those who for Orchestra Bana OK Jazz band,” said Kimbango.

Massiya who was born on March 19, 1938, was a Congolese music rhythm guitarist, songwriter, poet, composer, and bandleader who died in Paris on March 30, 2019, aged 81.

Today, ardent Rhumba fans wonder if there will be any artiste who could match the footsteps of the legendary Congolese Rhumba kingpin.

 A statue erected in Kalamu-Kinshasa in honor of Rhumba maestro Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi. [Courtesy]

Paul Khaduli said there will be no match for Franco in the rhumba world in many years to come. “The current generation of musicians are in a hurry to make quick money and have made the industry a quick fix, which has resulted in the production of less quality music,” Khaduli told The Standard.

Rhumba expert Tabu Osusa said the band died with the owner and it can only be resuscitated by Franco. That can only be achieved with a strong leader.

“TO OK Jazz Orchestra was Franco and vice versa. The band could only be resuscitated by a strong leader in the class of Franco,” said Osusa who acknowledged his music will last for long.

John Moody, a rhumba enthusiast, said Franco is always evergreen and that his music will last forever. “This kind of music was meant to last forever as their composition was well done by legendary artists who took singing as their profession,” said Moody.

Interestingly, the band died but there are still some surviving members of the legendary band living in the DRC. They are virtuoso guitarist, Papa Noel, lead singer Jolie Detta, rhythm guitarist Makosso Kindudi, bass guitarist Makabi Flavien and singers Wuta Mayi, Lokombe Ntal and Sam Mangwana.

Others were singers Baniel Bambo, Nana Akumu, Michelino Mavatiku Visi, lead vocalists Malage De Lugendo, Dizzy Madjeku and Michel Boyibanda. 

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