FRANCO & OK JAZZ, 'Originalité', RETRO2XCD
RetroAfric reveals origin of world's greatest band
RetroAfric first released 'Originalité' as a vinyl
LP in 1987. The original material has been remastered with CEDAR
technology and the album has been brought up to CD length with four
previously unavailable tracks, 17-20, which will delight Franco
aficionados. A new catalogue number denotes the added value version:
the bar code remains the same.
Of all the fabled dance bands in Africa, OK Jazz stand out for
the quality of music, the quantity of output and their pan-African
influence. The band was pre-eminent in African music for more than
30 years, linking the first generation of Congo rumba with the later
exuberance of Zairean soukous.
This great musical institution was founded on June 6,1956 when
Franco, 'De la Lune' Daniel Lubelo (rh. gtr), Jean Serge Essous
(sax), Bosuma Dessouin (conga), Pandi Saturnin (perc), Landot Philipe
'Rossignol' (vcl) Roitelet Munganya (bass) and some friends played
their first dance under the name of OK Jazz in Kinshasa (Leopoldville).
The musicians were all session players at Loningisa studios where
they were directed by the guitarist Henri Bowane. As well
as playing in the house band, Bana Loningisa (Loningisa Boys), most
had released 78rpm records scoring several hits before they started
as a gigging band. When they recorded these tracks the singers Vicky
Longomba and Edo Nganga had joined. The following year, Antoine
Armando Brazzos added his guitar accompaniment.
Franco had joined Loningisa in 1953 at the age of 15, playing with
Dewayon's Watam band. "At the time I was skinny, just a kid
who played guitar which we called Libaku ya nguma (a hollow-bodied
electrified guitar known as a 'lucky break') and the guitar was
bigger than me." He made such an impres-sion that he was signed
to a 10-year contract. Franco became Congo's first true pop star,
sponsored to model clothes, endorsing products and enjoying a huge
In 1956 the Loningisa boys organised themselves into a working
band, sponsored by Oscar Kashama, owner of the OK Bar.
Track 1, 'En Entre OK, On Sort KO', was a slogan for the
band and theme song in which the members are introduced. This can
be counted as the launch release of Africa's greatest band.
Subsequent releases came regularly evey few weeks, although the
band's personnel shifted frequently. On 'Ah Bolingo Pasi'
they are joined by visiting Senegalese horn players for a ska-type
A major reshuffle occurred in 1957 but, throughout many up-heavals
and power struggles, Franco became established as the accepted leader
and OK Jazz evolved into a massive organisation. Until Franco's
death nearly 10 years ago it was the yardstick for African dance
And this is where it all began.
- See also
'Congo Colossus - The Life and Legacy of Franco & OK Jazz',
Buku Press 320pp (Distributed by Stern's, ISBN 0-9523655-1-0)
Henri Bowane, 'Double Take
- Tala Kaka' (RetroAfric RETRO6CD)