The first thing you should look for when you want to enjoy Franco, says, Dr Onyango Oduor, perhaps Franco’s biggest fanatic is the vocal arrangement of the songs.
With an oeuvre of 1,200 songs, released over 37 years of TPOK Jazz’s existence, no musician in the world controlled a larger band, with amazing talent. In total he dealt with 84, highly talented vocalists and instrumentalists who produced music that will last several generations. Madilu System, Josky Kiambukuta, Simaro Litumba, Vicky Longomba, Zitani Ntesa Dalienst, Ndombe Opetum, Mayuala Mayoni (the man behind Mpongo Love’s Ndaya-the saxophone in that song is the best on any song in the world) and Michelino Mavatiku among other big names were all part of the TPOK Jazz machine. They composed some of the most socially conscious songs, that despite the language barrier, we still enjoy.
We asked Dr Oduor to make a very subjective list of 25 songs of Franco. He suggested the best way is to sample is work through the decades, starting from the 1980s and working backwards, from the known to the unknown, those released at the beginning of his career in the early 1960s. Without further ado, here is the list.
This rollicking dialogue between Franco and Madilu is one of his famous songs, some argue his best. That guitar is just too addictive.
Another perfect vocal collaboration with Franco with his raspy voice and the silky smooth, if coughy, voice of Madilu.
It is enough to say that the 1980s, were Madilu’s to shine. This is another timeless piece of work.
4. Pesa Position
Arguably, TPOK, were at their peak of musical perfection in 1981-1985. Everything from this period Rumba nirvana. Personally, I like the guitar in this period and the drumming. Damn it.
Not to be confused with John Bokelo’s (which is equally great), pay attention to the vocal harmony, on a song about autobiographical love. Ntesa Dalienst, Josky Kiambukuta, Wuta Mayi, Ndombe Opetum did the vocals, the arrangement is very TPOK Jazz. The sax at the end was done by Isaac Musekiwa.
Lyrically, this is a perfect composition. It also talks about a universal problem of marriage in a big city like Kinshasa.
7. . Layile
If you have good speakers in your car, and this song is playing and there is traffic from Mlolongo to Kinoo, you will be fine, if Layile is playing.
May be not as common, but for Rumba fans, they say the composition is top drawer.
No doubt that Sam Manngwana is one of the most gifted musician, a polyglot par excellence and the last one to work with Franco before he died in 1989. Odongo is very addictive, the base and the saxophone and vocals have masterpiece written all over it.
On this one, Josky Kiambukuta took the front seat. It is a song about how sometimes you do good to people, but they never appreciate, nor reciprocate. Again, the instrumentation props Josky’s vocals, and then, the second part of the song is musical sublimity.
We will do the best from the 1970s next week.