Fans pay tribute to ‘Queen of Mutwashi’ Tshala Muana

Congolese musician Tshala Muana.

Congolese musician Tshala Muana. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

 The Congolese music fraternity and fans across the world have been sending tributes to popular singer and dancer Tshala Muana, who died in a Kinshasa hospital on Friday night following a long illness at the age of 64.

The musician, whose real name was Élisabeth Tshala Muana Muidikay but was fondly referred to as Mamu Nationale (mother of the nation), made her name as the queen of the sexy traditional dance of Mutwashi from her Tshiluba community in the DR Congo.

Her body is lying at Hospital du Cinquantenaire, which, incidentally, is the same mortuary where the body of her fellow musician, Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta, who died in October, is also preserved. Unlike most of her other Congolese counterparts who recorded most of their songs in Lingala and French, Tshala Muana will be best remembered for having recorded most of her songs in her Tshiluba language.

Born in 1958, she had a chequered music career and later dabbled in politics. Some of her popular songs regularly played in Kenyan clubs and on radio include Karibu Yangu, Dezo Dezo, Nasi Nabali, Tshibola, Lwa Touÿe, Kokola and Kalume.

Her partner, Claude Mashala, told Congolese media that she has been battling with diabetes and hypertension. The musician had also scaled down her political and social activism in recent years.

Speaking to the Sunday Nation, US-based Congolese musician Mekanisi Modero, formerly of Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International Band, said he had first learnt of her death from RTNC (Congolese national radio and TV station). “We are all saddened by her untimely death and will remember her as a fellow musician who had kept a unique role of promoting her native Tshiluba culture.” he said.

Paris-based mercurial Congolese composer and singer Nyboma Mwandido said he had seen a condolence message from his Kinshasa-based colleagues under the auspices of UMCO (Union of Congolese Musicians) addressed to Tshala’s family and the entire Congolese music fraternity and citizens.

Following the ouster of long-serving Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, Tshala served as a nominated Member of Parliament in the government of President Laurent Desire Kabila and later under his son, Joseph Kabila.

She would later return to full-time music and excelled at mentoring young singers. One of her biggest products was the immensely talented singer Meje 30 ( now a born-again gospel singer).

Kenyan fans of Tshala Muana will recall her 1990 and 1991 tours that were organised by flamboyant Congolese promoter Tamukati Ndongola. She also visited Kenya in the mid-1990s under the auspices of veteran producer Kaluila Simon.

Nairobi-based Rhumba fan Catherine Karanja said she would always remember Tshala Muana for her unique stage prowess.

“My first memories of Tshala Muana are of the debate around her dance style – Mutwashi – and her beautiful long legs. For these, she was often compared to American musical powerhouse, Tina Turner. Her music will always get you to get up and dance.”

Others who eulogised the departed singer include musicians Ken Kesh Makokha, formerly of Ulinzi Orchestre Band, Les Mangelepa band leader Kabila Kabanze ‘Evani’ and Nairobi-based radio presenter Francis Luchivya.