More Than OK


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 François 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.


Mambu Ma Miondo

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

franco1 franco2 franco3 franco4


In 1960 Senegal gained independence from its colonial master France. To celebrate this event a band was formed to play at the Miami Club in Dakar. The band was known as The Star Band of Dakar, and such was its legacy that several other bands were born out of the comings and goings of its members.

Arguably, Africa’s most famous singer, Youssou N’Dour, started his career in the band before forming, Étoile de Dakar with some of Star Band’s members. He went on to become a huge star after his move to Paris and commercial success came with the hit 7 Seconds, with Nenah Cherry, in 1994.


Another one of the bands that came out of the Star Band family was Orchestre Laye Thiam, named after one of the vocalists and arrangers of the songs. Today’s selection, Kokorico, the sound of the cockerel (Cock-a doodle-do), is a classic Afro-Latin track.

The organ dances, horns sing, vocals soar and screech, and the song changes direction several times, like a cockerel strutting around a yard. It is wonderful stuff.

For a detailed discography of Star Band of Dakar and all their variations please see here.


Record Details:
Orchestre Laye Thiam – S/T (197?) – Soumbouya Musique (IK 3024)