More Than OK

Franco and TP OK Jazz

It has been a long time since the last post, with time seemingly at a premium at the moment. Today’s selection may seem like a bit of an obvious choice of a band and a record but despite my love of the obscure and unknown it is definitely necessary to cover the biggest, in both popularity and personnel over their life, as well as most prolific bands in Africa.

OK Jazz was formed in 1956 and lasted 37 years before being disbanded in 1993, giving the Rolling Stones a run for their money in terms of longevity. The band’s history and changes in personnel are complex, reading like a who’s who of Congolese musicians recording hundreds of records over their lifetime. Arguably the most well known member and eventual band leader was guitarist Fran├žois Luambo Makiadi, known as Franco. Franco’s period of assuming leadership of the band in the late 1960’s that transformed it to all conquering can be read about on the meticulously written and researched World Service, here.

Soukous, or Rumba, from the French word secousse, to shake, is one of the most popular styles of music in Africa, spreading from Kinshasa, in the Belgian Congo to Nairobi in Kenya, where it is known as Lingala after the dialect the songs where sung. African Rumba is said to originated when Cuban songs were played on the national radio station in Kinshasa in the 1940’s and 50’s. The typical Cuban style horns were played on the guitar and the lyrics were sung in French and Lingala by early Congolese bands and musicians like Papa Wenga.

By the 1960’s and 70’s Soukous was at the height of its popularity and Franco and TPOK Jazz were in full swing. Such was their popularity they split into two groups, with one remaining in Kinshasa playing local clubs, the other touring Africa, Europe and America. Here they can be seen playing Kinsiona in 1987 in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Today’s selections come from a 1974 LP and show the range of the band, and the power of Franco’s voice framed with blaring horns.

Kinsiona

Mambu Ma Miondo

Record details:
Franco et L’Orchestre TP OK Jazz – Editions Populaires (1974) – African (360.056)

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