Franco and TP OK Jazz in the mid 1980s
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In the beginning of 1984 Franco and Madilu teamed up for yet another duet. This one was titled Makambo ezali Bourreau. It was a song about a certain gentleman who while living in Europe , has abandoned his family and even though he sends them money and writes letters, they miss his physical presence. The , song was sung in a dialogue form by Madlu and Franco, while the refrain reminds the listeners that Franco is announcing it in America , Brussels and Paris. The second song on that album ,Kimpa Kisangameni(meeting of witches) was a tirade against sorcery with a reference to his late brother Bavon Marie , whose death was believed to have involved sorcery. The song was sung in a Kikongo dialect.
The following album titled L'Ancienne Belgique saw Madilu firmly establish himself as TPOK jazz's lead singer. The song Pesa Position (state your position) was a big hit especially among the youth because of its very danceable up tempo beat.
Madilu was now the band's most prominent vocalist
In 1985 , Franco released what turned out to be his biggest hit ever. The title was Mario, a soap opera-like song about a gigolo who despite being highly educated has chosen not to apply for jobs but would rather sit at home and live off his rich lover who happens to be a woman twice his age. Madilu followed this up with a series of big hits such as Boma Ngai na boma yo (tit for tat) , Merci bapesaka na Mbua and Burreau de couerr. Indeed Madilu was now the most popular member of the band. Wherever TPOK Jazz staged a concert, the fans demanded his songs.
Then in 1986 the band was hit by yet another defection when Josky and Dalienst led a group of other Ok jazz artistes to defect and form their own band. The reasons for their defection were not given publicly but it was rumoured that they were disgruntled at the fact that they were not getting due recognition especially with the emergence of Madilu. In addition to this, Franco faced further descent when his trusted liutenant Lutumba aro recorded an album outside the Ok Jazz system. The album featured the award winning hit Maya. It appeared that the band was on its last legs but Franco true to his survival instincts , managed to navigate the band through stormy waters.
It was during the Kenya tour of 1986 that Franco might have realized the importance of the duo as fans repeatedly demanded songs composed by Josky and Dalienst.
TPOK Jazz members ,unperturbed , continued to belt out their latest hit as if nothing extra-ordinary was happening.
Meanwhile Josky and Dalienst were realizing some success with the release of the album labelled Alerte which also contained the classic hit Lela Ngai na mosika. They followed this up with two more albums : Selengina and Medecin de nuit.
In an attempt to shore up the vocal section, Franco recruited Malage De Lugendo whose silken tenor voice thrilled fans in songs like Celio,Ekaba kaba and Simaro's testament Ya Bowule , a song which Simarro dedicated to his sister who had just passed away. Additionally , Kiesse Diambu Ya Ntessa , a stalwart of Afrisa International who had produced such hits as the award winning Zuwa-te as well as Loumousou defected over to Ok Jazz earning himself the nickname "wanted". Although he produced several songs at Ok Jazz including Ma Zamba and Bomba pema , he never enjoyed the heights of success he enjoyed while at Afrisa.
This period also saw Franco experiment with female lead vocalists in the album Franco presente Jolie Detta which featured the hit Massou. To end the year Franco celebrated the band's 30th anniversary by releasing the riveting hit La vie des hommes( the life of men), which he sung along with Madilu. The flip side of the album featured two slow folkoric songs Ida and Celio . Celio was a duet by De Lugendo and Djo Mpoyi and is a classic example of Franco's superb organization. The voices of the two singers are so similar that you would have to listen to the song many times to realize that there is actually two singers singing one after the other. Which is why , along with Lassa Carlito , I prefer to call them the 3 tenors.