I could try to write about the whole history of the music scene in the DRC but I think this post would have to be a book and I don’t know enough.
Music here is magical and a source of pride.
There are musicians that have broken out into the world scene but there are are also smaller musicians that have also succeeded locally.
But for me it is the music from the 1950s to the 1970s that is really wonderful.
The artists I remember off the top of my head that have impacted me are :
- Le Grand Kallé et l’African Jazz (known as African Jazz) “is one of the first professional groups of the former Belgian Congo, currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was founded in 1953 by Joseph Kabasele Tshamala, known as the Grand Kallé.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Grand_Kall%C3%A9_et_l%27African_Jazz
- Grand Kallé, Joseph Athanase Kabasele Tshamala, born December 16, 1930 in Matadi, DRC and died February 11, 1983 in Paris, better known as “Le Grand Kallé”, is a Congolese musician (DRC), singer and group leader, considered to be the father of modern Congolese music. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Kall%C3%A9
- Tabu Ley Rochereau. “He began to compose in the 1950s. In 1956, he participated in a recording session with the musician Grand Kalle (Joseph Kabasele). It was the beginning of his career: Tabu offered his songs to African Jazz, who hired him. He then takes his stage name of Rochereau, in reference to the governor of Belfort, Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau, nickname given by his classmates, following a question of history of which he would have been the only one to know the answer. His first titles, such as Kelya, Adios Tété and Bonbon sucré, made him known to the public. He was then close to the Congolese National Movement of Patrice Lumumba.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabu_Ley_Rochereau
- Franco Luambo. François Luambo Lua Ndjo Makiadi, known under the names of Luambo Makiadi Franco alias Grand Maître or, more simply, Franco, born July 6, 1938 in Sona-Bata in the Belgian Congo and died October 12, 1989 in Mont-Godinne in Belgium, is a Congolese composer, singer and musician. He remains the most prolific of Congolese composers. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Luambo. Read this amazing piece on KCRW : https://www.kcrw.com/music/articles/spotlight-on-congolese-superstar-franco
- OK Jazz, “OK Jazz (later become TP OK Jazz for All Mighty Kinshasa Jazz Orchestra) was a Congolese rumba group, founded by François Luambo Makiadi, known as “Franco” and by Jean Serge Essou, on June 6, 1956. The original name OK Jazz comes from a bar called OK Bar, Oscar Kashama’s bar, but can also be the acronym for Orchestre Kinshasa. OK Jazz quickly became one of the most important popular music groups in Congo-Kinshasa, along with African Jazz. Several famous musicians started their careers in these two groups. Oscar Kashama, owner of the OK Bar, asked François Makiadi to host the evenings in his bar.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/TP_OK_Jazz
- Tshala Muana, “Élisabeth Tshala Muana Muidikay, (Lubumbashi, May 13, 1958) is a singer and dancer from Congo-Kinshasa. She started her artistic career as a dancer for the musical band Tsheke Tsheke Love in 1977. She is famous for several songs such as Karibu Yangu. She has won several awards on the national, continental and global scene. She has never been married, Her being the wife of Claude Mashala is not accurate as he is married legitimately to another woman in 1989 with who he shares 5 children.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tshala_Muana
Here are few tracks that have defined the eras and still make an impact when played in a party or with friends.
There is also some great stuff after the 70s. These include, by genre:
- Papa Wemba, “Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba (14 June 1949 – 24 April 2016), known professionally as Papa Wemba, was a Congolese singer and musician who played Congolese rumba, soukous and ndombolo. Dubbed the “King of Rumba Rock”, he was one of the most popular musicians of his time in Africa and played an important role in world music. He was also a fashion icon who popularized the Sape look and style through his musical group Viva la Musica, with whom he performed on stages throughout the world.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_Wemba
- Koffi Olomide, “Antoine Christophe Agbepa Mumba (13 July 1956), known professionally as Koffi Olomidé, is a Congolese Soukus singer, dancer, producer, and composer. He has had several gold records in his career. He is the founder of the Quartier Latin International orchestra with many notable artists, including Fally Ipupa and Ferré Gola.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koffi_Olomide
- Awilo Longoma. He is a Congolese soukous musician. At first a drummer in Viva la Musica, Stukas, Nouvelle Generation and Loketo, he left drumming for singing and released his first album Moto Pamba with help from Shimita, Ballou Canta, Dindo Yogo, Dally Kimoko, Sam Mangwana, Syran Mbenza and Rigo Star in 1995. Awilo has performed live concerts in Africa, Europe, and North America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awilo_Longomba
- JB Mpiana. “Jean-Bedel Mpiana wa Tshituka, known as JB Mpiana, born June 2, 1967 in Kananga (Kasai central), is a Congolese singer, dancer-choreographer and singer-songwriter of rumba, ndombolo and soukous. In the 1980s, he became the president and one of the headliners of the group Wenge Musica with Didier Masela, Werrason, Adolphe Dominguez, Alain Makaba and Blaise Bula until its dislocation in December 1997. Following this dislocation, Mpiana goes to create Wenge BCBG with practically the majority of the members of the group leaving on their side Werrason, Didier Masela and Adolphe Dominguez to go to create Wenge Musica Maison Mère. He distinguished himself in 1997 with his first solo album, Feux de l’Amour, notably with the flagship title Ndombolo.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/JB_Mpiana
- Konono Nº1, “They combine three electric likembé (a traditional instrument similar to the mbira) with voices, dancers, and percussion instruments that are made out of items salvaged from a junkyard. The group’s amplification equipment is equally rudimentary, including a microphone carved out of wood fitted with a magnet from an automobile alternator and a gigantic horn-shaped amplifier. The group achieved international renown beginning in 2005, with its DIY aesthetic appealing to many fans of rock and electronic music. They played that same year at the Eurockéennes festival in France.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konono_N%C2%BA1
- Staff Benda Bilili. “They are a group of street musicians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They used to live around the grounds of the zoo in the country’s capital city, Kinshasa, and play music which is rooted in soukous, with elements of old-school rhythm and blues and reggae. ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staff_Benda_Bilili
- Mbongwana Star. “It is a band from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of the seven members of the band, two of them (Coco Ngabali and Theo Nzonza) were among the founding members of Staff Benda Bilili.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mbongwana_Star
- KOKOKO! “KOKOKO! is a collective born in Kinshasa capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a creative collision of different artists which fused at a block party. It consists of musical instrument inventors from the Ngwaka neighbourhood, electronic producer débruit, Makara Bianko (aka the Lingwala devil) and his dancers bursting forth from the Lingwala neighbourhood.” https://www.kokokomusic.com/about
Modern times (2010s-2020s)
- Fally Ipupa. “Beginning in singing, in various small street groups, he was noticed by Koffi Olomidé who integrated him into his group Quartier Latin, to which he remained for 7 years and participated in 6 albums. In 2006, he signed with Obouo Music and released his first album Droit Chemin.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fally_Ipupa
- Innoss’B. “Innocent Didace Balume was born on May 5, 1997 in Goma in North Kivu in the DRC. All his childhood, he lived in Goma. He is the youngest in a family of six. He grew up in a family of musicians and got involved in music at a very young age thanks to his parents and brothers. His father was a former pop music dancer, his mother was a church cantor, and three of his brothers were performers. He is also a djembe player (African percussion), which is his favorite instrument. He joined his brothers at the age of 6 in the Maisha Soul group formerly called Dji-life. He really began his career in 2010 when he won the Vodacom Superstar4 music competition, a competition organized by the telecommunications company Vodacom in collaboration with the American star Akon. This competition allowed him to record a song in collaboration with Akon. In 2010, Innoss’B won the Vodacom Superstar competition when he was only 13 years old. The winner of the contest was to first receive a sum of $ 25,000, second, to travel to the United States to record a song with Akon and sign a production contract. In December 2015, while Innoss’B was invited by the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Equatorial Guinea to perform his song Cha Cha, Innoss’B and all its staff were close to death in a road accident. There were injuries among its staff. Between 2016 and 2018, he collaborated with Congolese stars such as Werrason or Koffi Olomidé. During this period, he released his first EP titled Plus. All Innoss’B songs are produced by his brother DJizzo.” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innoss%27B
There are so many others. Apologies for forgetting them. I will make a more comprehensive post later.
Apologies also if there are some mistakes in my post! Feel free to correct me in the comments section!