Rhumba singer Elvis Lola following in father’s footsteps

Elvis Lola Tondo

Congolese musician Elvis Lola Tondo at Nation Centre in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Like his late father, Elvis Lola Tondo struts the rhumba music stage, singing and playing guitar as he entertains his fans in Nairobi.

His father, Lola Djangi Checain, was a composer and a great vocalist in TP OK Jazz of the legendary Franco Luambo Makiadi who dominated the African music scene until the late 1980s.

Checain died in 1992 aged 50.

While with TP OK Jazz, Checain composed several hits including Baninga Tokola Balingaka Ngai Te, Meka Okangama, Libala ya Bana na Bana Lolaka, Mpo Na Nini Kaka Ngai, Sela Lokola Luntadila, Emile Na Gabon, Lunda Maguy, Gaby Ozali, Nganda Ma Campagne, Lukika and Toboyana Kaka.

“I grew up with a famous dad. I had a close relationship with my father as a child. My father supported me a lot, both with music and with life,” the all-round guitarist said of his late father whom he considers one of his biggest musical inspirations.

Raised in a musical family, the 47-year-old trained teacher opted to pursue a career in music. He enrolled for classes in the capital city of DRC (then Zaire), where he started gaining skills to compose melodies before getting deep into writing songs that launched his music career.

Big musicians

His uncles Frank Lassan and Johnny Bokosa were all big musicians who performed alongside Laisser Tomber whose talent influenced later generations of musicians.

Elvis Lola is a guitarist, singer, band owner, songwriter and a band leader.

Elvis, who holds a Diploma in Education, said if he wasn’t in music he would probably be a school teacher.

Hailing from Kindu Maniema, a region that produced the late Dr Nico wa Kassanda, guitarist Lukasa ya Mbongo, the late Pepe Kalle among others, Elvis was inspired to pursue music by the people in his family, particularly his late father.

During the interview at Nation Centre, Elvis said he came to Kenya in 2002 with Eden Musica under Gaby Yakabwe. The seventh born in a family of 10 isn’t the only musician in his family to gain fame in music and art management.

Other children following in their father’s musical footsteps include Jean Pierre Lola (JP), Bob Lola (vocalist in Paris) and Pitsho Lola, a Kinshasa-based keyboardist. They are all known musicians who have made waves in Soukous and rhumba music.

Composed many songs

Elvis Lola has composed many songs including the hit Kikulacho. It was his first song recorded entirely in Swahili. The song earned him good money that enabled him to buy music instruments.

Elvis is today a music star in his own right, with his group Afro Sound Band based in Nairobi.

The 12-member group performs in different joints including Alaska Lounge in Nairobi West Shopping Centre where they entertain every Sunday from 3pm.

“I admired Franco and Dr Nico because they had a unique guitar touch, but today I’m a fan of Fally Ipupa because of his music arrangement, though Kofi Olomide has a nice voice and stage performance,” he said.

Elvis added that most of his members suffered financially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We lost many jobs during the pandemic but a message I want to give to our fans is that our music in now available in YouTube as we plan to release a new album.”

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