Congolese musician Josky Kiambukuta

Veteran Congolese musician Josky Kiambukuta, who died in the DR Congo on March 7, 2021.

| Courtesy

Josky Kiambukuta: One more TPOK Jazz voice goes silent

What you need to know:

  • In August last year, Hellen also organised an online tribute show for Josky in Kinshasa.
  • The burial date for Josky has been set for April 3 at a cemetery in Kinshasa.

Sunday last week dawned with another piece of sad news following the announcement of the death of veteran Congolese crooner Josky Kiambukuta. One more member of the legendary TPOK Jazz is no more.

Among the TPOK greats who have died are the grandmaster, guitarist, composer and band leader Franco Luambo Makiadi, who died in October 1989 in a hospital in Brussels, and many of his vocalists and instrumentalists.

Josky, who died at 72, was one of the most prolific rumba singers who, during his long career, teamed with up with such greats as Lola Checain, Djo Mpoyi and Ntesa Dalienst. Others he collaborated with were Wuta Mayi, Ndombe Opetum, Sam Mangwana, Madilu System and Aime Kiwakana.

Between 1974 and 1990, Josky’s voice was present in most of the top songs composed by Franco.

His voice was prominent Matata ya Mwasi na Mobali Esilika te, Nakoma mbanda na mama ya mobali ngai, Tokoma ba Camarade Pamba and Sandoka.

His popular compositions such as KSK and Mabi have been trending on social media since his death. His other popular songs include Bimansha, Aziza, Chandra, Sincerite, Fariya and Missile.

Kenyan music promoter Hellen Winnie Arika and singer Erick Mpoyi were among the first to confirm the veteran singer’s death.

Both had been in touch with Josky’s widow, Maman Sera, until his final days.

Online tribute

Speaking to the Saturday Nation on Monday, Hellen recalled her phone communication with Josky’s widow, who was at the Ngaliema Hospital in Kinshasa, where he died.

“From what I gathered from his widow, he was still able to talk and was even looking forward to speaking to me a few hours before he passed,” she said.

The singer, who was also fondly referred to as “Le Commandant,” was admitted to the hospital a few days earlier for what had been described a routine check-up.

Josky Kiambukuta

From left (foreground) Madilu “System,” Josky Kiambukuta and Lutumba Simaro with other members of the TPOK Jazz in a 1987 picture.


Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As Hellen recalled, it was only last month that there was a birthday party for Josky in Kinshasa, where an emotive clip dedicated to his Kenyan fans was recorded.

“When the birthday party was arranged on February 14, little did we know this would be his last birthday. It was also in the clip, which I have released to his fans online, that he sends his special appreciation wishes to Kenyans,” she said.

In August last year, Hellen also organised an online tribute show for Josky in Kinshasa.

The burial date for Josky has been set for April 3 at a cemetery in Kinshasa.

He will be interred at Necropole Cemetery, where his fellow top Congolese musicians, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Lutumba Simaro, Papa Wemba, King Kester Emeneya and a few others were laid to rest.

Hellen said mourners have been meeting at his residence at Kasavubu commune to make funeral arrangements.

Ill health

Singer Eric Mpoyi, the the son of Djo Mpoyi, Josky’s former colleague in TPOK Jazz, leads the Djo Mpoyi Mania Band, which has in the recent past had been performing and recording cover versions of the songs by Josky, who had been kept off stage due to ill health.

The group performed during the Josky tribute show last year.

Prior to joining TPOK Jazz in 1974, Josky had performed with the legendary Dr Nico Kasanda’s African Fiesta Sukisa Band in the late 1960s. The group featured Lessa Lassan, who later relocated to Kenya, where he died in 2011. Lessa, also popularly known ‘Sauti ya Simba,’ led the Nairobi-based Orch Popolipo band.

Josky’s next stop was the Orch Contintental band in Kinshasa in 1971, where he performed alongside veteran guitarist Bopol Mansiamin, who is currently recuperating from a stroke in Paris, and Wuta Mayi, who later became his counterpart in TPOK Jazz. Wuta Mayi is currently based in Paris.

During a recent interview, Wuta Mayi recalled how it had been inspiring singing with Josky at TPOK Jazz.

In Kenya, most fans of TPOK Jazz will recall Josky’s last tour in 1990, a few months after Franco’s death.

Veteran promoter DS Njoroge, who arranged the tour, recalls the two shows at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. The group had earlier toured Kenya under Franco in 1986 and later when they performed during the 1987 All Africa Games music concert.

Josky would later become a key member of the offshoot Bana OK band that was formed following a disagreement with Franco’s family on the management of TPOK after his death. Bana OK was led by long serving Franco deputy Simaro, who died in Brussels in 2019.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation earlier this week, Josky’s US -based counterpart Mekanisi Modero, lauded his vocal prowess.

Modero, who was a long-serving saxophone player and band manager of Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International band, recalled recruiting Josky to sing on his composition Omona Wapi.

“Josky provided some of the melodious vocals backup on the song, alongside Pon Pon Kuleta and Tabu Ley,” Modero said.

More revenue

The song, which was released in Paris in 1983, is on the album that features Ngungi, a duet of Tabu Ley and Franco, and Lisanga ya Banganga. Modero and Jean Essous Serge played the saxophone in the album.

Modero also recalled having organised the last tour by the TPOK Jazz to London in 1991. The band later returned to change its name following differences with Franco’s family.

It was Franco’s sister, Marie Louise, who according to Modero, sparked the split when she demanded more revenue from the group’s performances. It was thereafter that Simaro led the formation of the splinter group.

The surviving former members of the TPOK Jazz include singers Prince Youlou Mabiala, Sam Mangwana, Nana Akumu, Michel Boyibanda, Baniel, Wuta Mayi, Lokombe, Malage De Lugendo, guitarists Nedule Papa Noel, Michelino Mavatiku, Flavian Makabi, Makos Kindudi and Dizzy Mandjeku.

Kenyan FM radio and TV stations and clubs will stage rumba shows as a tribute to Josky this weekend.

Veteran media personality Fred Machoka will dedicate his Roga Roga shows on Citizen Radio and TV this weekend to Josky.

DJ Le Grand Molakisi (Ken Ontuga) and Lawrence Nyakundi will today host a special show on Egesa FM dedicated to Josky. Also expected to feature Josky’s music tonight will be the TV 47 Channel and Haggai Isanya of Mulembe FM .

Rumba connoisseur Dan Ochieng of BeePee Lounge in Nairobi South B has also arranged rumba special shows dedicated to Josky at the lounge in Trance Towers in Nairobi South B.

Popular veteran rumba disc jockey Sibuor Martin says he will be playing Josky’s popular compositions.

Most live bands performing rumba music across the country are also expected to feature Josky’s music this weekend.


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