Culture: Tout-Puissant OK Jazz – Teach and Take a Stab

I am an avid fan of music…partly because I have a natural penchant for it 😉 but mostly because there was always music around me.  My mother has a beautiful voice and I cannot recall a day where she didn’t sing, or at least hum, a tune or two…Likewise, my dad always had music playing in their room…old school songs from when he was a young boy, he’d say.  One of his favorite artists was Franco Luambo from the musical group TP OK Jazz.  Well, I have just recently found out that OK was not an ego flash.  Rather, OK stands for Orchestre Kinois 😉

So, what are my memories of Franco? I was not particularly fond of his voice.  However, the songs were hilarious, at times educational, but mostly he was taking digs at people.  Franco touched all social levels, using his guitar to bluntly reprimand or commend, sometimes getting in trouble with the Zairean judicial system at the time.  Franco sung mostly about women, not always in galant terms.  In fact, his depiction of women reminds me of Guys Des Cars, a french writer who also painted women as little devils.

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“Mario” is about a cougar lady also known as ‘mama mobokoli’ and her much younger lover, Mario.

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In “Mario Part 1”, Franco describes Mario as a young man who gave up on finding a job to be with ‘mama mobokoli’, but he would abuse of her money while having affairs with women closer to his age.  Finally, she gets tired of him and his tantrums.  As a result, she kicks him out of her house, regrets spending money for his university tuition and slams him with derogatory remarks on her money and the fact that she made a ‘monsieur’ out of his poor behind.  So, Mario goes back to his parents’ house, where he has to sleep on his old bed which is now too small for him.  The lesson is simple: do not go after older and richer women, instead get an education and make your own money.  However, rumour has it that in real life, ‘Mario’ and Franco were rivals for the love of the cougar lady…and Franco lost her to Mario, hence his revenge song.  In “Mario Part 2”, Franco and Mario reconcile and now Mario is the one making fun of ‘mama mobokoli’ because she came after him for his looks and youthfulness so she should not complain…after all, ‘every work deserves a salary’, he says…Hmmmm.  You can listen to both parts on YouTube.  The video has a cute picture of a younger Franco 🙂

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Next is “Mamou“.  This is about a bizarre transition in the Zairean society of the time, when married women began having affairs.  Mamou is a married lady whose husband sent her and their children to a big city to provide for a better education (and a better future…so he thinks) for their kids.  In the Big City, she befriends a woman of ‘low’ morality with whom she goes on dates with other men.  Whenever her husband calls to check on her, she always finds excuses to hide her affairs.  Down the road, an argument takes place between Mamou and her ‘scarlet’ friend.  To get revenge, her friend decides to tell on all her misconduct. Lesson: Do not cheat on your husband. If you do, be careful how you treat your confidente 😉

My favorite is “Tres Impoli“.  It is about people with very bad manners and Franco frequently asks why, why are they so rude?

I never knew Franco was that famous, nor that he had such a big ego until I watched a documentary on his life HERE.  I also learned of his troubled childhood, his decision to leave school to focus on life on the street and later on his career.  Franco had a major impact on the African Rumba from 1960’s to 1980’s, and international success in Africa, Europe and the U.S.  He wrote a song in later years of his career, warning about the dangers of AIDS.  Franco died of an unspecific death in Belgium.

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For many, Franco will forever remain what embodies the core of Congolese/Zairean music: classical jazz, a guitar and meaningful, educational lyrics.  One of my old school teachers used to complain about modern music and our empty words.  He’d say: “It is not just about the melody and the dance.  A song must teach us something important, revive our conscience and make us better individuals.”

I never took him seriously back then…now I do, because it is getting harder to peruse Amazon MP3 store in search of a recent release without the “Explicit, Parental Advisory” logo now so frequent…It is hard to listen to a song without obscene words and feel good about it while actually learning something from it…you know, something other than my body parts and money, drugs, partying, jail, etc.  I miss watching music videos where my eyes would not hurt to see ’empowered’ women undress because they can.  How is it empowering to leave little to nothing to the imagination and move around imitating sexual acts? I have yet to see male celebrities undress and dance like that…equality, huh?

All pictures credits to Google Images.

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