Lokassa ya Mbongo: Top guitarist left void in rhumba

By - Jan 1st 1970

The death of Lokassa ya Mbongo has left a deep void in the world of rhumba rhythm guitarists.

He was one of the top rhythm guitarists in Congolese rhumba and benga music who could only be rivalled by Bopol Mansiamina who died two years ago. Lokassa and Mansiamina were the top two Congolese rhythm guitarists in the rhumba world.

The duo was often hired when top global rhumba and Benga artistes required their services since any number they participated in was and is still a big hit.

Their fame and talent was unmatchable because the duo were composers, guitarists and singers at the same time.

Mansiamina, having died earlier, left the room for Lokassa to shine but in the actual sense he (Lokassa) had retired from active music and stage shows on health grounds after he suffered from heart-related diseases leading to a stroke.

Lokassa, real name Lokassa Kasia Denis died in the US on March 14, according to Nairobi-based Congolese music promoter Tabu Osusa.

Born in Kinshasa (then Leopoldville), DRC (then Zaire) in 1946, Lokassa died at the age of 77. He was a widely travelled musician in Africa, Europe and in the US.

Throughout his life, he had performed with Congolese lead artistes like Tabu Ley of Afrisa International, Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi of TP-OK Jazz Band, Sam Mangwana of African All Stars, Bopol Mansiamina of Mode Success, Nyboma Mwandido and Syrian Mbenza of Four Stars Orchestra and Pepe Kalle Ya Mpanya of Empire Bakuba Orchestra, among the popular Congolese outfits.


All professional Lingala and Rhumba artistes in Africa and abroad had the pleasure to hire the services of Lokassa, if not Mansiamina, in great shows.

“The duo was equally respected and no guitarist has ever matched them as their qualities were rare and could not be matched in the continent and beyond,” said Alloice Odhiambo, an ardent fan of TP-OK Jazz Band of Franco.

No Kenyan musician had the capacity to hire the services of the two.

After several performances in Africa in his traditional base of Kinshasa in the 80s, Lokassa migrated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast and later Lomé in Togo and thereafter settled in Paris, France before he moved to US in the mid-90s where he lived until his death.

It is in Paris, where Lokassa composed and released many top-selling albums. He started with Santa Isabella in 1986 as a solo artiste before he released Maria Jose/Monica album in 1987.

Lokassa is also reputed for having teamed up with the likes of Sam Mangwana of African All-Stars to produce top albums like Issa, Dodo and Bonne Année in 1983 before he later joined Franco at TP-OK Jazz band for the track Tres Impoli.

At some point, Lokassa and Mansiamina competed against each other in the race for top honours in the lucrative multibillion music industry, but were at it together when they produced Manuela in 1982.

The death of Lokassa follows that of renowned songtress Tshala Mwana in December last year, which has left DRC orphaned following the death of their top giants after that of La poet Simarro Massiya of TP-OK Jazz Band some five years earlier.

Lokassa was a great friend of Mansiamina. It is in Paris where the two artistes composed and released many top-selling albums that resulted in their popularity growth.

As Lokassa played for Four Stars and later Orchestra Soukous Stars, Mansiamina was always with Mode Success Orchestra, as the band leader.

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