Franco Luambo Makiadi and TP OK Jazz
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Franco and TP OK Jazz in the 1950s Franco and TP OK Jazz in the 1950s

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In June 1956 , Franco, Jean Serge Essous and De La Lune , who were all session musicians at the Loningisa Studios, got together to form a band which they named Ok Jazz. The name originated from the bar in which they played which was named OK bar. But the name Ok could also be taken to mean Orchestra Kinois.

Essous was a talented hornsman playing both the clarinet and the saxophone. Other original band members were bassist Roitelet, percussionists La Monta LiBerlin and Pandy , guitarist Dessoin and vocalist Rossignol.

The band , then consisting of a bunch of eager beaver teenagers soon caught the imagination of the Zairean public. Pretty soon it was apparent that they were destined for greater things. The rhumba they played was fast paced and involved a lot of improvisation. They played together on a daily basis at a studio owned by a Greek businessman and played occasionally at functions such as weddings. The band's introductory album was labelled On Entre OK on sort KO( you enter ok and leave knocked out) , composed by Franco.This was later to become the bands motto. In 1957 , lead vocalist Rossignol quit the band for ego-artistic reasons but the band never lost a step. He was ably replaced by Congolese singer Edo Nganga.

Later that year, Zimbabwean saxophonist Isaac Musekiwa joined the band. He was to become one of Franco's closest friends. At this time , the band's leadership was shared equally among Vicky Longomba , Essous and Franco. In the early 60s when Vicky and Essous left to join Africa Jazz , Franco took over the leadership of Ok Jazz for good. Africa Jazz whose band leader was Joseph Kabasselleh a.k.a Le Grande Kalle was the most influential band in the Congo. It had in its ranks an array of talented musicians including Tabu Ley and legendary guitarist Docteur Nico Kasanda.

Following the departure of Vicky and Essous along with several other musicians ,Franco recruited vocalists Mujos (Mulamba Joseph), Kwamy Munsi and guitarist Simaro. Saxophonist Verkys Kiamanguana replaced Essous.

Essous, along with other musicians from Congo Brazaville such as De La Lune , Celestine Kouka and Edo Nganga, later founded one of the most famous orchestres of the time , Les Bantous de la Capitale, based in Brazzaville. Les Bantous was later to become a national Institution in Congo-B. OK Jazz and Les Bantous often shared and exchanged musicians. Among the musicians who played on both sides in the 80s was Papa Noel. Other prominent musicians who played for Les Bantous were Tchico Tchicaya and Pamelo Mounka. The two bands also cooperated on an album Pont Sur le Congo