Zairean music owes its popularity to people like Franco, Rochereau and Docteur Nico. From Docteur Nico, Franco learned the modern style of guitar playing. Franco’s well-known way of playing is holding his guitar against his voluminous stomach and because high tones are beyond the reach of his deep bass he adjusts the sound of his guitar with the ‘capo dastro’.
When Franco plays one tone lower, the female dancers, La Zumarette come on stage in a floating manner, dressed in colourful clothes. They move around, swaying their hips, clapping their hands and dancing the fast dancing steps, characteristic for Zaire. By their dancing the musicians get inspired.
In 1953, Franco got his first real guitar from his record producer at that time. In 1956, he set up his first band O.K. Jazz. After the independence of Zaire, Franco scored a hit with ‘Musumbuku’. His band grew from 9 to 37 persons and became famous as T.P.O.K. (Tout Puissant Orchestre Kinois’) Jazz. With this group he played in most African countries and also in the USA and Europe. The sales of his records were enormous. Now he has his own record company in Zaire, he owns immovable property in that country and he also owns a house in Brussels, Belgium. Besides, he is the owner of the club Un, Deux, Trois in Kinshasha, a dance-hall and a meeting place for musicians who are members of the Zairean Union of Musicians.
Franco is a dynamic and friendly person with a good sense of humour, which he assimilates in his texts. He jokes about the contact between men and women; he not only sings about love bu also about historical events in the world.
The atmosphere of his music is cheerful; a dazzling, inexhaustible show radiant with energy. In short: what you and hear is the grand “maitre” himself.
This album was recorded in Holland during the Africa Mama Festival in 1987 and features members of T.P.O.K. Jazz
Lutumba Simaro, Madilu System, Kiesse Kiambu Wanted, Malage de Lugendo, Lokombe N’bal on vocals and the well known Nigerian saxophone player Pedro.
The poet Lutumba Simaro, who has been workin together with Franco for 30 years, is also Franco’s right-hand man and his ‘chef d’orchestre’.
The album ‘Franco & Le TPOK Jazz Live in Holland’ is like a Holy Grail to most lovers of Zairean music since it is one of the rare live-recordings of Franco just a short time of his decease. Soul Safari is happy to share it with you.
There is such a great energy on this album and a memorable line-up of 24 musicians and a group of 3 dancers La Zumarette
Franco & Le TPOK Jazz En Hollande -Africa Mama Records 87.01-1 Holland 1987
See also Francorestored