Congo Siasa

In honor of Franco

In honor of the greatest Congolese musician of the 20th century, Franco Luambo, who died 20 years ago this week, I wanted to give a platform to some (probably gratuitous) speculations on Kinshasa’s streets.

In 1985, Franco released what would become his greatest hit, Mario. It was a rambling, 13 minute track about a young gigolo who, despite having a god education, chose to sit around and live off his lover, a woman twice his age. Wonderful stuff, especially because there was some speculation that the maestro was really talking about Mobutu – the double entendres and oblique criticism were typical of Congolese music and Franco’s own style of social commentary. After all, Franco could not openly insult his biggest benefactor. The Congo is full of this playful, tongue in cheek resistance.

Which brings me to the gossip on the radio trottoir of Kinshasa. Earlier this year, Kofi Olomide – arguably the successor the Franco as the king of the Congolese rumba – released his new album, “Bor Ezanga Kombo,” which translates roughly as “The Thing Without a Name.” This, naturally, led aficionados quickly to infer that he was talking about none other than President Kabila, whom many Kinois still suspect of being Tanzanian, real name Hippolyte Kanambe. Hence: The Thing Without a Name. Check out the track, even if you don’t get the words, it’s a good show.

Talking about names, for some reason Kofi has now (actually for the past 2 years) changed his name to Kofi Olomide Sarkozy. Is it entirely unclear why – I guess in 2007 there weren’t many other charismatic western leaders to choose from. Maybe next year it will be Kofi Obama Olomide (after all, one of Werra Son’s greatest proteges used to go by Bill Clinton (now McKintosh)). He’s already tried Grand Mopao, Mopao Mokonzi, Papa bonheur, Papa plus, Papa fleur, Koraman, Quadra Koraman, Tati Wata, Chéri O, Benoît XVI (he had to drop this last name after the Catholic church protested)….

Franco was just Franco.