I am hoping that this post can shed some light on a mystery that's been bugging me ever since I have heard "Bilombe ya mindule", a song attributed to Franco and his O.K. Jazz. The thing is: I can't identify the singer of this song. There are some slight touches of Kwamy in his voice, but it's not him. It's certainly not Vicky or Youlou, and after closer study Boyibanda and Chécain could also be eliminated. Given that the music suggests the track is from the late 1960s, there is not a lot left....
Friend Aboubacar decided to ask a Congolese connaisseur, and his answer meant a dramatic shift in my perception of the track. He wrote: "Here is my true opinion: this is from CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE, not necessarily from the Bantous de la Capitale, but nonetheless from some band in Congo-Brazaville. I'd say even the lyrics point at that side: traditionnaly & 'politically' people from Congo-Brazzaville have always wished the two Congo's to unite... Listen to Franklin Boukaka for instance .... Whereas my people have always seen those from Congo-Brazzaville with suspicion...
The lyrics talk about the Congolese music and musicians of both sides. No Congolese musician from Congo-Kinshasa would sing about a musician from Congo-Brazzaville, - not that I know of anyway.."
The title, he explained as follows: "Bilombe is the plural of elombe. And what does elombe mean? (...) Elombe = someone living, thus elombe mobali = a man, elombe mwasi = a woman. Elombe is always 'positive' and contains some kind of admiration, the opposite is yuma. Bilombe ya Mindule = those 'fantastic men' who make music & song, i.e. musicians (with the touch of admiration I was referring to above)."
With this in mind, I begin to understand why I couldn't recognise the singer: maybe the song is simply not by the O.K. Jazz... Could the track be by the orchestra that is responsible for the A-side of this single on the Pathé-Marconi label: orchestre Manta?
A mix-up is not completely unlikely. Manta also released some records through Franco's Epanza Makita label, so maybe the mistake started there.
And listening to one of those records, I can hear some similarities between the singer of "Tokei Kotala Bango" and the singer of the mysterious "Bilombe Ya Mindule"....
But there is still doubt. A doubt inspired by the horns on "Bilombe Ya Mindule". There is no sax at all on the Epanza Makita record, and only one sax on "Gaby Kulutuya Tango", the A-side of the Pathé 45.
So who are these 'fantastic men'?
Pathe PF 11590
Epanza Makita 384.432
PS: Come to think of it: where is Franco on "Bilombe Ya Mindule"?