Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

FRANCO

(b L'Okanga La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi, '38, Sona Bata, Zaire; d 12 Oct. '89, Brussels) Singer-composer, guitarist, bandleader, probably Africa's most popular musician: a legend in his lifetime, guitar virtuoso, leader for 30 years of one of the most infl. orchestras, TPOK Jazz, releasing around 150 albums and uncounted singles. Began at age twelve with first master Ebengo Dewayon in the Watam Group; recorded with him '53, made first solo record later that year 'Bolingo na ngai na Beatrice' on Loningisa label: began to perform own live shows; in mid-'56 OK Jazz was born, a ten-piece rumba band led by Franco, De La Lune and Essous. It moved to Brazzaville '57, returned to Kinshasa '58 where Franco was jailed for some months for a motoring offence, but soon recovered his reputation as 'sorcerer of the guitar', so influential that at the end of the decade there were two distinct schools: his and that of Dr Nico. Early works of OK Jazz on six vols of Authenticit‚ (through '62) and L'Afrique Dance No. 6 (mid- '60s), all on Africaine label. Toured and recorded prolifically through '60s, keeping a clear musical direction despite changes in personnel: the band's graduates were a Who's Who of Zairian music, incl. Vicky, Sam Mangwana, Prince Youlou Mabiala, Wuta May, Mose Se Sengo (FanFan), Josky, Michelino and Dalienst: mid-'70s LPs featuring many of these were A.Z.D.A. and Mabele. By 20th Anniversaire '76 Franco could fill dance halls anywhere and proved it with a tour and Live Recording '78; the 23-piece outfit with four horns, four guitars, bass, singers and percussionists was captured on Le 24Šme Anniversaire '80. Social commentary sometimes got him in trouble; he served two months '78 for songs 'Helene' and 'Jackie', only to be decorated the same year by President Mobutu, two years later dubbed 'Le Grand MaŚtre' of Zairian music, the second musician after Kabaselle to be so honoured. Respect, Bimansha, Tailleur, Mandola on Pop label '81, along with Coup De Monde, … Paris, … Bruxelles; shared Co-Operation with Mangwana '82, also five more LPs on Pop incl. two-disc Disque D'Or; joined Tabu Ley on Choc Choc Choc and L'EvŠnement; '84 saw TrŠs Impoli, Candidat Mobutu, L'Ancienne Belgique and Chez Rhythmes. Toured USA '83, made UK debut '84. Spent much time in Brussels; established second band to back him in Europe early '80s and had nightclub/hotel and record label in Zaire. Hit album Mario '85 showed no loss of power: described as the Balzac of African music and the Duke Ellington of Zaire, his infl. was still strong years after his death, with over 80 CDs available in various countries; biography Congo Colossus by Graeme Ewans was available from Stern's.