donderdag 25 mei 2017


Born in Kinshasa on 31 December 1958 Matumona Defao Lulendo started his musical career in 1976, initially in Orchestre Suka Movema, then Fogo Stars followed by Korotoro and in 1978 Somo West. In 1981 he was enrolled into the then newly formed Grand Zaiko Wawa of guitarist Pepe Felix Manuaku before joining Ben Nyamabo in the formation of Choc Stars.

It was with both Choc Stars and orchestre Shakara Gagna Gagna (under the direction of Jeanpy Wable Gypson) that "Le General Defao" first came to national prominence. Working beside Ben Nyamabo, Debaba, Carlito, Bozi Boziana and Djuna Djunana in the phenomenal Choc Stars Defao developed his songwriting, singing and dancing talent.

♫ Audio: 1989 Ibrason - Debaba, Defao et Seja Kha
He finally quit Choc Stars at the end of 1990 in order to form Big Stars with Djo Poster (another former Grand zaiko singer). The partnership was not to last and eventually Djo departed leaving Defao to be singlehandedly lead the band. He gathered together a line-up of new musicians for Big Stars. Although initially Roxy Tshimpaka joined him from Choc Stars he was not to last and eventually a young dynamic soloist Jagger Bokoko was to become Defao's regular star attraction, along with his animateur Azanga. These two feature on virtually all of Defao's post Choc Star releases, sometimes with the new musicians of Big Stars and sometimes with guest session players and well known guest vocalists. Other regular Big Star members are singers Djo Djo bayenge, Debleu Kinanga, Adoli bamweniko, guitar accompanist Mogus, bass guitarist Guy Wa Nzambi, drummer Richa Cogna Cogna and percussionists Sedjo and Kavanda.

During the first five years of Big Stars, Defao had a very creative and productive period and released at least seventeen albums, six of which came onto the European marketplace in 1995. During the 90's he becomes acknowledged as solo artist in the same league as Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Bozi Boziana and Kester Emeneya. Although he still might not be selling globally in the same quantities as Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide, there is no doubting his popularity among the Congolese. That popularity stems from his voice, which is both musical and forceful. His songs are classicly structured in the two-part rumba-sebene mold, and his dance animations are eminently likeable without being overtly predictable and gimmickly. Defao has not only on of the Congo's best voices but he is without doubt the best dancer out of all major Congolese voices.
Clip: Defao live in Abidjan - Sala noki

After 1995 he took a step back, with "only" two new cd's in 1996, one in 1997 and one in 1998, the album Copinage together with female star vocalist Mbilia Bel. beside this album Defao and Big Stars accompanied in 1989 also Zaksoba, a singer from Burkina Faso on his cd Sensuel. In 1999 Defao had another very productive year with five releases, including the albums Tremblement de terre and La guerre de 100 ans. This unbalanced production indicates a lack of guidance from a good manager, which is also reflected in his continual change of producer and record company. Sometimes he even releases alternate versions of the same material on different labels.

In 2000 he dissolved his Big Star group and spent part of the summer in paris recording the album Nessy de London, with a superstar line-up of paris-based musicians. With the help of Nyboma Mwan Dido, Luciana De Mingongo, Wuta mayi, Ballou Canta and Deesse Mukangi, to mention only the impressive list of guest-vocalists, Defao made with Nessy de London again a fantastic record.
 2000 Defao - Rigobert Song (from the album Nessy de London)

Then it becomes silent around Defao. It's said that he got mixed up in a political misunderstanding that got him banned from performing by the late DRC president Kabila. He moves to East Africa and faces several difficulties in the new millenium, ranging from money problems to visa problems. His fans have to wait until 2006 - an unusual long period in case of Defao - before he comes with a new album entitled Nzombo le soir. After another four years this cd is followed by Pur encore in 2010. Apart from the fact that the album can only be downloaded and is not available as cd, it also suffers from a rather poor sound quality. This strange relase shows again that Defao still has problems with managing his career into a direction which can really capitalise his big talent. Fortunately he came back in 2012 with  the very good sounding The Undertaker, followed in 2016 by Any Time.
(* Partly based on 'From Choc Stars to Big Stars' by Martin Sinnock (The Beat Vol. 15#4 1996)

maandag 1 mei 2017

Pablo Lubadika Porthos 1952 - 2010

The name Pablo Lubadika Porthos should be familiar to anyone with a couple of Paris-produced soukous album in their collection. His session guitar has animated some of the best Zairean dance albums of the mid-eighties (notably solo albums from Pamelo Mounka, Master Mwana Congo and Assi Kapela) and it is his unmistakeable playing style which helped to forge that Paris soukous sound.

The man was more than a good free-lance professional. He was also a singer-composer, whose skills were sharpened by playing with Kinshasa bands like Kin Bantous, Lovy du Zaire, Groupe Celi Bitshu and Orchestra Kara in the 70s, before going on to work with Sam Mangwana and his African All Stars on their recording of the classic ‘Georgette Eckins, followed by regular work with the Quatre Etoiles.

He then concentrated on a career as a session musician, helping a number of fellow musicians to record their solo albums – including Pamelo Mounka, Master Mwana Congo and Asi Kapelo. But Pablo was not content to persue a successful session career and maintained his distinctive personal guitar style with his first solo album entitled Ma Coco.

The album did very well in the African discotheques of Paris and drew the attention of Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records, the label with the lock on Jamaican reggae. Island’s executives, with an eye to expanding their label’s reach, struck a deal with Pablo’s producer Richard Dick, to license some of his African music productions. Their first release was a 12-inch single of Pablo’s Bo Mbanda (rivalry), one of the hottest tracks from his first solo album Ma Coco. Congolese and Zaïrean musicians and their fans were ecstatic. After nearly a quarter-century reign as the king of African pop, Congo music would get the worldwide exposure that only major labels could provide. And not just any label, but the label of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals. As 1981 wound to a close, Island released Madeleine a second 12-inch single from Ma Coco, and two album compilations of Richard Dicks’s artists, entitled Sound d’Afrique I & II. It was his contributions to these excellent compilations which made him a household name to a new market of international music lovers.  

Ma Coco was followed by several more outstanding solo albums and in 1985 Pablo released his first British LP on the Globestyle label. It made Pablo in the mid 80’s the leading exponent of contemporary Soukous. Unfortunately, Pablo could not hold this role for a long time and a period of silence followed. In 1993 he came back with his first (and only) CD Okominiokolo for the London based Sterns Music label. With the help of several old fellows such as Wuta Mayi, Lea Lignanzi, Diblo Dibala and Dally Kimoko among others, Pablo managed to revive his old success one more time, but after that his career was over. Since the mid 90's nothing has been heard from Pablo, until the message of his death reached us in 2010. Looking back, however, he will always be remembered as a great musician and ambassador of Congolese music.
Ronnie Grahams – Stern’s guide to contemporary African music – 1988.
Gary Stewart – Rumba on the river: a history of the popular music of the two Congo’s – 2000.
Liner notes Okominiokolo – 1993.