Oct. 12 is the 27th anniversary of the passing of one of Africa’s most significant figures: Franco Luambo Makiadi, bandleader of the all-powerful T.P.O.K. Jazz, composer, musician and singer. He was only 51 when he died, but had been making music for over three decades. Few artists can match his musical output, and the esteem in which he was held by millions of fans all over the African continent and the world.
Music historian Gary Stewart notes in his appreciation: Franco, known as the Grand Maître (grand master), was “one of the pioneers of modern Congo music…he recorded more than 150 albums and an uncountable number of singles. His impact on African music cannot be overstated.”
In memory of the Congo Colossus, (as he was termed by his biographer Graeme Ewens), from the “Best of The Beat” archives we offer these features on Franco from 1986 by Beat columnist Elizabeth Sobo and Gary Stewart, along with a sidebar in which Tabu Ley Rochereau eulogizes Franco.
Elizabeth Sobo recalls the relationship between Franco and Rochereau: “Over the years, two distinct branches of music emerged in Zaire. One consisted of Franco and those who adopted his style; the other was led by another Zairean musical superstar, Tabu Ley Rochereau. The competition between the two was intense, but it never marred the mutual respect and genuine affection they shared for one another.”
LISTEN to Afropop Worldwide program “Celebrating Grand Master Franco”
“Ngungi,” duet between Franco and Rochereau