Franco Luambo Makiadi and TPOK Jazzin the Early Seventies
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Come the 1970s , Franco and his TPOK Jazz had firmly established themselves as Africa's premier singing group. The band was now a huge money spinner and was staging concerts all over Africa including such unlikely venues as Sudan and Chad. It now included an array of glittering stars as Vicky , Simaro , Youlou Mabiala as well as solo guitarist Mose Fan Fan.
Franco further augmented the strength of the band by recruiting composer/vocalist Sam Mangwana from Afrisa. The recruitment of Mangwana from Afrisa was considered a major coup by music fans and signalled the beginning of an intense animosity between both members and staunch supporters of rival bands Afrisa and TPOK Jazz. This animosity was further deepened as Franco constantly poached musicians from Afrisa up until the late 80s.
In early 1970 Franco had to part ways with Vicky Longomba who was then acting as Co-president of the band. Vicky then founded ochestre Lovy but never regained the success and popularity he enjoyed while at TPOK Jazz. Mose Fan Fan , the bands flambuoyant solo guitarist felt impeded within the Ok Jazz system and quit the band along with vocalist Youlou Mabiala. . Together they formed a band called Orchestre Somo Somo. Later they split, forming two versions of Somo Somo. Youlou stayed in Kinshasa while Fan Fan travelled to East Africa and later to Europe. Later in the 80s Fan Fan became a prominent member of fearsome foursome known as Quatre Etoiles , which produced sevral hits in the mid 80s.
Soon after the departure of Fan Fan and Youlou, Tshongo Bavon Marie Marie who was Franco's only brother died in a road accident. Franco was grief stricken to the point that He semi-retired from music for a long period. The band hit upon rough times as record sales slumped and concerts were sparsely attended.
The people of Zaire were now required to abandon European names and adopt African ones.Franco became L'Okanga La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi.He then set upon a recruitment drive that resulted in several talented musicians joining the band. The list included vocalists Mayaula Mayoni, as well as guitarists ,Mpundi Decca , Gege Mangaya, Michelino and Dizzy Madjeku and Saxophonist Empopo Loway.
Franco then appointed Lutumba Simaro as the chef d'Orchestre.
Thanks to La Aunthenticite, Franco's interest in traditional African forms deepened with songs like Kinzonzi Ki tata Mbemba( the wisdom of old Mbemba).At the same time he revealed a gentler side with songs like Boma l'heure with its womens chorus. Mangwana made his presence felt with hits like Luka Mobali Moko.
In 1973 Franco released what proved to be one of his biggest hits, AZDA.This was a song in praise of the local Volkswagen dealership. That same year so the arrival of vocalist Josky Kiambukuta Londa whom Franco recruited from Ochestre Continentale. Josky was to become one of the bands most popular if not the most popular singer and composer.
1974 saw the return of Youlou Mabiala to the fold. The following year ,Sam Mangwana , true to his acronym "La pigeon Voyageur' , left the band to establish a solo career in Cote'd Ivoire. The gap he left was filled by Pepe Ndombe Opetum , recruited from rival band Afrisa International as was hornsman Empopo Loway.
In 1975 Franco released yet another classic hit Bomba bomba mabe which was a love song inspired by a certain woman Marie Josephine with whom Franco had a long romantic relationship. The album also featured the song Libala ya bana na bana composed by Lola Checain. Later that year , Simaro caught the imagination of the Congolese public with his song Radio Trottoir which roughly translates to The grapevine (he said , she said ....). In the song , Simaro complains about constant gossipping and speculation among people , and the problems it creates.