Kinshasa to mark Madilu System’s ninth anniversary

Madilu Bialu System will mark the ninth anniversary of his death next Thursday. Madilu's voice graces some of the biggest hits from Franco’s TP OK Jazz Band’s last years. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Madilu was seen as a star given a free chance to excel as the lead vocalist by Franco himself. He burst into the limelight with the sensational love ballad Libala Non, released in 1983. It was a commentary on marriage that brought out Franco as a major conveyor of wisdom on social
  • On this album, he sang in praise of Fabrice, a supermarket chain (magazin monene) and also singled out a Belgian tailor in the song Mokolo Tonga, who was quite popular with the fashion-conscious Congolese musicians.

Fans of DR Congo’s mercurial singer Madilu Bialu System will mark the ninth anniversary of his death next Thursday.

Madilu, whose voice graces some of the biggest hits from Franco’s TP OK Jazz Band’s last years, including Mario, Pesa Position, Mamou, and Boma Ngai, also had some great compositions later in a solo career. They include Nzele, Ya Jean and Apula.

The burly singer, who was popularly known as ‘Le Grand Ninja,’ was a key member of TP OK Jazz, a band founded in 1955, but which hit its peak in the mid-1980s. Madilu was in the forefront of the transition to up-tempo beats by the group in the early 1980s from the Latino-Cuban influence of earlier decades.

Madilu was seen as a star given a free chance to excel as the lead vocalist by Franco himself. He burst into the limelight with the sensational love ballad Libala Non, released in 1983. It was a commentary on marriage that brought out Franco as a major conveyor of wisdom on social relationships. The song was off the album Fabrice a Bruxelles.

CUTTHROAT RIVALRY

But Franco was also adept at composing blatant advertisements that took on a life of their own as big hits. On this album, he sang in praise of Fabrice, a supermarket chain (magazin monene) and also singled out a Belgian tailor in the song Mokolo Tonga, who was quite popular with the fashion-conscious Congolese musicians.

Madilu’s arrival at TP OK Jazz after stints with Bakuba Mayopi and Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International came against the backdrop of the sparkling success of the star-studded ensemble that included star singers such as Josky Kiambukuta, Ntesa Dalienst, Lola Checain and Ndombe Opetum. But Madilu was in his element, doing the lead vocals on his ever-green composition Pesa Position.

Until band leader, vocalist and guitar wizard Franco’s death in Belgium in October 1989, there was cutthroat rivalry within the vocals set-up in what was perhaps one of Africa’s best  bands. At its peak, it was made up of nearly 40 musicians, with half of them based in Kinshasa, and the rest overseas  to give TP OK an international image.

Following Franco’s death, deputy band leader Lutumba Simarro led the majority of the members to form Bana OK after a disagreement with his late boss’s family. But Madilu chose to go solo in Paris.

The singer’s widow Biya, whom he fondly sang about in various hits, also lives in Paris with their children, among them Amanda and Letis.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation by telephone from Paris, singer Nyboma Mwandido, who backed Madilu on many of his later recordings, said a tribute show would be held in Canada later this month. “I’m liaising with others, including guitarist Shiko Mawatu, for a full programme,” he said.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.