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Congo Mourns Rhumba Music Legend, Tabu Ley Rochereau

posted 3 Dec 2013, 06:58 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 3 Dec 2013, 06:58 ]

Congolese mourn the death of legendary singer Pascal Tabu Ley Rochereau, following a long illness. Chart topping hits such as Muzina, Maze and Sorozo gained the Rhumba artist a strong following across the African continent.

 KINSHASA, DRC (DECEMBER 2, 2013) (REUTERS) - Fans of the late Tabu Ley Rochereau, one of Africa's legendary musical talents are still coming to terms with the loss of a music icon.

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He died on Saturday (November 30) at the age of 76 in a hospital in Belgium, where he was undergoing treatment for a stroke he suffered in 2008.

In his native Democratic Republic of Congo and around the world, he was known as the "King of Rhumba".

Along with other Congolese musicians like Joseph Kabasasele also known as 'Grand Kalle', andNicholas Kasanda or 'Nico', Tabu Ley is credited with creating the Rhumba music genre - an African style pop with its roots in Cuba.

"Tabu Ley is one of the greats as far as Rhumba music is concerned. I think that he inherited his talent from elders like Franc Lasagne, Kabassele and he was the only one left alive from that generation. The young generation from today have not really created much, they still get their inspiration from Tabu Ley's music. It's just a great loss," one Kinshasa resident, Hilaire Mukaba.

"This news really saddened me because he was a treasure for Africa and he lives behind a reference point for future generations of Congolese music. Losing the Great Pepe Kale and again today losing Rochereau, it's really an enormous loss for the world of music, and for me personally it's a big shock. May God protect him where he is," added Jean Angoley, another Kinshasaresident.

Singing along to one of Tabu Ley's hits, 'Malory', Freddy Mata Matundu, owner of Vis a Vis Internationale in downtown Kinshasa - where Tabu Ley used to play, remembers his friend as a talented musician who was the envy of all other artists trying to make it in a tough industry.

"There were a lot of mini Rochereaus when we were young, everyone wanted to be Rochereau. And even though there have been many stars since then, a voice like Rochereau was just not common. Not many singers can compose songs like he did, he was what people call one in a million. Meaning that amongst a million singers, there was only one singer who stood out, one singer who was out of the ordinary, and that was the master Tabu Ley and everyone was behind him 100 percent," Matundu said.

Born on 1937 in eastern Badundu province of then Belgian Congo, Tabu Ley began his musical career when he joined a local band after high school.

But his musical career only took off in the 1950's when he joined a group led by Grand Kalle, who wrote "Independence Cha Cha", a song that later performed by Tabu Ley - making him a star.

Tabu Ley went on to have a successful career, producing hits such as Muzina, Maze and Sorozo, and gained a fan base across the continent and the rest of the world.

In the 1970's, he became the first African musician to perform at the Paris Olympia music hall, considered to be a milestone for any artist at the time.

"He was the first musician to play at the Olympia, for us who lived through that in Kinshasa, in the 1970's, we were still children, it was almost as if Congo was going to play in the finals of the World Cup, and we were following it closely, and when it was shown on TV, we were waiting to see him with his wife on TV. It was really a special moment, it's not like now, where everyone goes to play there. Really, it's a great loss," added Matundu.

Tabu Ley also tried his hand at politics in the 1980's, but was forced into exile to Europe in 1988, after he released several songs, criticising the regime of president Mobutu Sese Seko.

He later returned to DRC in 1997, after Mobutu was ousted, to serve in former president Laurent Kabila's cabinet.

During his career spanning 46 years, Tabu Ley produced more than 2000 songs and produced 250 albums.