One of Democratic Republic of Congo’s leading solo guitarists, the mercurial string pluckier, Nene Mandosi Mbedi Tchakou, died on Friday night after a long illness.
The versatile guitarist passed away in Los Angeles, California, United States, where he had been living and performing.
He was among the key proponents of the up-tempo Soukous beat of the 1990s that took the lovers of African music on the continent and beyond by storm.
After savouring fame, he relocated from Paris to Los Angeles where he continued to perform until he fell ill. He has been recuperating from a mild stroke he suffered several years ago and other underlying conditions.
His death comes barely a month after the demise of his flamboyant counterpart, General Defao Matumona, who was a leading vocalist, composer and dancer. Defao died last month in Douala, Cameroon, during a concert tour.
Speaking to the Sunday Nation yesterday by telephone from his New York base, fellow Congolese guitarist Ngouma Lokito said he had learnt of Tchakou’s death through a family member in Los Angeles.
“It’s a double tragedy for me, considering that both Defao and Tchakou were close to me,” Lokito said.
Also devastated by the sad news was versatile singer and dancer Shimita El Diego, his former bandmate in the Soukous Stars Band.
“I had occasionally been in touch with Nene Tchakou since he fell ill and was kept off stage,” Shimita said.
The singer recalled the times they performed together in the then Paris-based Soukous Stars group, which featured, among others Ngouma, Lokassa ya Mbongo, Yondo Sister, Balou Canta, Dally Kimoko, and Zitanny Neil.
Other leading France-based Congolese Soukous guitarists are Diblo Dibala, Saladin and Albert Caen Madoka
The 64-year-old Thakur played the solo guitar on the popular Soukous Stars album featuring among other hits, Lagós/Nairobi Night.
Some Kenyan fans will recall that in 1991, he was among those who backed London-based Congolese musician Kanda Bongo man during the memorable concert in Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium. He and others put on a great performance, with him excelling on the solo guitar in songs such as Ïsambe, that made Kanda Bongoman a household name in East, Central, southern and West Africa.
Later, he played the solo guitar on Kanda Bongoman’s songs, including Sana.
Also eulogising the fallen musician in Nairobi yesterday was visiting London-based Congolese guitarist Fiston Lusambo, who said he was a childhood friend in the Lingwala neighbourhood of Kinshasa.
Then, they used to call him Nene Jaffar. “Lingwala is the area where Popolipo, Simaro Lutumba, Simolo Katondi, Sedjokha and I were born,” Fiston said.
Tchakou was born in Banana, Bas Congo, but later moved to Lingwala with his father, who was a soldier.
He made his music debut with Bella Negrita before joining Kanako Shiprike Bango of Tonton Butche.