RIP Tabu Ley Rochereau
I am ashamed to say I only just found out that we lost another African giant recently:
Tabu Ley Rochereau, a Congolese singer, songwriter and bandleader whose music spread across Africa and the world, died on Nov. 30 in Brussels.
His son Marc Tabu confirmed the death on his Facebook page. Mr. Tabu, who was 73 or 76 — sources differ — had never fully recovered from a stroke in 2008.
Mr. Tabu’s voice, a high tenor, was always sweetly urbane, whether he was singing of love, his Christian beliefs or social issues. From the 1960s into the ’90s, he led one of the two top bands playing soukous, the Congolese rumba that became popular across Africa. He wrote and recorded thousands of songs, and as a bandleader and arranger he widely expanded the sound of soukous, infusing it with both local African rhythms and elements of international pop.
Tabu Ley Rochereau was born Pascal Emmanuel Sinamoyi Tabou in what was then the Belgian Congo. He went by simply Rochereau, a school nickname, when he sent his first songs to Joseph Kabasele, the leader of the pioneering Congolese rumba band Orchestre African Jazz. He made his first recordings with another band, Rock-a-Mambo, in 1958, but had his first hit, “Kelya,” after he joined African Jazz in 1959, singing harmony with Mr. Kabasele’s lead.
As the 1960s began, Rochereau wrote many hits for African Jazz when it was’s top band. But in 1963, he took five members of African Jazz with him to start his own band, African Fiesta.
Watch him perform live with Africa ‘70 during the Soul Power concert in Kinshasa, 1974. Here he shared the stage with other greats (who we have also sadly lost) such as James Brown and Miriam Makeba.