So far this has not been my year, I think. Fate (or call it what you like) seems to throw all kinds of obstacles in my way to prevent me from spending time on this blog. Since my - apparently dangerously - optimistic penultimate post both sad personal events and ill health have been demanding my full attention. So I am more careful now in promising very frequent postings, but I can assure you that this blog will continue, - and hopefully also to surprise you with more musical 'wonders of the past'.....
It is hard to imagine that he must be 64 by now. In my mind I still see Youlou Mabiala as the mwana ya Luambo, as Franco's musical child. Discovered at the age of only 15 in a vocal group which performed on Brazzaville radio, he was recruited into the O.K. Jazz in 1963. He spent the first years in the shadows, being drilled into singing shape by the likes of Vicky, Kwamy and Mujos, before being allowed to contribute his first composition ("Obimi M'Bwe") in 1966.
On the basis of just the historic facts it is hard to understand how Youlou ever got his nickname. He was involved in several rebellions against Franco, starting with the one in 1968 which led to the departure of Verckys, followed only a few years later by the "Orchestre Mi-affair". He even left the O.K. Jazz in 1972 to join Vicky in Orchestre Lovy, and returned three years later only to leave again in 1977 to launch "Les Trois Frères".
I recall reading somewhere that he did return to the O.K. Jazz in 1987 to record the medley version of "Vyckina" (a.k.a. "Nakomi Musulman").
Of course there is his marriage to Franco's daughter, which certainly must have contributed in the family's selection of Youlou as the heir to the name of Franco's orchestra in the early 1990s (but not the orchestra itself!).
To understand why Youlou is called "mwana ya Luambo" you have to turn to the music. To the many duos of Franco and Youlou in the late 1960s, to the gentle guidance Franco provided to Youlou's sometimes hesitant vocal, to the at times brilliant interplay between Youlou's and Franco's voices.
Then there is the reception of Youlou, after his stint with Lovy and Somo-Somo. Remarkably, Youlou is treated almost as a prodigal son, and is allowed a position at least equal if not more prominent than new stars like Josky Kiambukuta. Testimony to this is this video from the end of 1975, showing a very confident Youlou Mabiala:
Personally I am inclined to think that Franco saw in Youlou a worthy replacement for the likes of Sam Mangwana, who - as Franco was beginning to understand - would always be a 'cavalier seul'. The single which I would like to share with you may have confirmed Franco's vision of Youlou.
This single is surrounded by some mystery. According to this discography Youlou is being accompanied by the O.K. Jazz. Although the orchestra is very competent, I have my doubts about this. It seems more likely that this is a recording from his Orchestre Somo-Somo period.
But, as always, I hope you are able to shed more light on the matter....
Editions Elengi ELg 008 or ELg 008
More posts about Youlou in the future.
P.S.: a full version, but in black&white can be found here. And the singers accompanying Youlou are (l. to r.) Michel Boyibanda, Wuta Mayi and Lola Djangi 'Chécain'.
EDIT April 14, 2011: As Peter Toll has pointed out, Youlou did not enter the O.K. Jazz in 1963, but in 1966. In my hurry to post this I did not look this up. Simaro actually confirmed this in an interview in 1991. Naturally this means that neither Kwamy nor Mujos were involved in his training.