By the mid-1970s Franco was in full control of his orchestra. He had called an end to the coming and going of musicians; once a musician left the Tout Puissant O.K. Jazz there was no coming back. He attracted talent from the 'competition', i.e. from the orchestra in the African Jazz school: in 1973 Josky Kiambukuta (who had been a singer with Docteur Nico's African Fiesta Sukisa), in 1975 Ndombe Opetum (ex-African Fiesta National) and in 1976 Ntesa Dalienst (who had made his debut in Bombenga's Vox Africa). The aim was to widen the scope of the orchestra, not just to attract a larger audience, but also to diversify the musical potential. Because Franco himself found that the OK Jazz style was getting a bit monotonous.
Sam Mangwana had a special arrangment with Franco. He had been contacted long before he joined the orchestre, and was posted as a 'mole' with Rochereau's African Fiesta,and to learn the trade with the competition. When he finally teamed up with Franco in 1973 (first tracks: "Où est le sérieux?" and "Ebale Ya Zaire") he was free to operate outside the OK Jazz. With the OK Jazz his primary role was that of an 'interprète', for which he received a solid 15 percent of a song's revenue.
Another person to maintain a special relationship with Franco was Mayaula Mayoni. He had been a football (soccer) player with Franco's favourite team, Vita Club. He never became a member of the orchestra, but often performed with the OK Jazz as a rhythm guitar (guitare d'accompagnement) player. Also he contributed some memorable composition, the most famous being "Chérie Bondowe".
Here are some 45's from the 1970s, including two superb compositions by Mayaula Mayoni and a classic track featuring Sam Mangwana.
Two of the tracks are probably from 1973. The first of these "Tata Na Bebe" (Populaires EP 205) is a showcase of the vocal talent, with lead parts from Sam, Josky, Michel Boyibanda and composer Franco.
Youlou Mabiala's slightly earlier "Massi" (Populaires EP 203) is sung by the 'old crowd': Youlou, Boyibanda and Lola Djangi 'Chécain'.
"Na Koma Mbanda Na Mama Ya Mobali Na Ngai" (African 91.247, but also released on CD 36571) (which according to Gary Stewart translates as "I've become my mother-in-law's rival") was composed by Franco and recorded -together with Mayaula's "Chérie Bondowe"- in 1976, and was selected best song of 1976 by the readers of the Salongo magazine. The singers are the same as "Tata Na Bebe", but in a very different role.
The other tracks were all released in 1977 (but I suspect some were recorded earlier). The first of these is the brilliant "Bondoki" (African 91.434, but originally released on Mayaula's own Zebi label) ("sorcery"), with Josky, Youlou and Wuta Mayi singing and Franco doing some nice shuffles on his guitar.
The second is Josky's "Mobali Amesana Na Ngai" (African 91.463), with Josky backing Youlou and Franco intervening as lead vocalist.
The third is another classic by Mayaula Mayoni: "Mitelengano" (African 91.474). I am not too sure about the singers in this track. I suspect Wuta Mayi and Chécain, and maybe Boyibanda.
The final of these 45's is Simaro's "Makambo" (African 91.558), as with many compositions by Simaro a complex arrangement with Josky and Ndombe singing, backed by Wuta and -I supect- Ntesa Dalienst.
Finally, here is a small excerpt from a show by the TP OK Jazz on Zairean television. It is probably from 1975. It is part of a track composed by Simaro, "Oko Regretter Ngai Mama" (translated by Simaro as "You will regret me one day, woman"). There are some wonderful closeups of Chécain, Boyibanda (with his typical way of dancing) and of Josky (left) and Wuta Mayi, plus some great shots of Franco 'directing' the orchestra.