December 13, 2010

The doctor is dead

June 29, 1989 (photo: Ton Verhees)
According to this report Remmy Ongala has died on Monday morning December 13, 2010 in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. Born in 1947 in the Kivu province of eastern Congo, Remmy played with several bands in Congo before moving to Tanzania. He himself in an interview in 1989 (audio 1) mentioned Orch.Grand's Mike Jazz, based in Bukavu, where he played with Rachid King, who he called "his brother in Washington". When King was invited to the US in 1978, Remmy was contacted in Bukavu by Mzee Makassy (audio 2). He played with Orchestra Makassy until Makassy himself left for the UK in 1980, selling his instruments as he was going to buy new ones in Europe. When ex-O.K. Jazz guitarist Mose 'Fanfan' Sesengo didn't feel like waiting for Makassy and decided to start his own orchestra called "Matimila", he invited Remmy to join him. Remmy agreed but with the intention to go back to Makassy as soon as he had returned. But when Makassy returned he refused to take back the defectors. After about a year and a half Fanfan announced he would move on, and left Remmy in charge of Matimila.

Remmy Ongala was known among his fans as the 'witchdoctor', a nickname which amused him, as he confessed in 1989 (audio 3). Maybe he also liked the implied reference to "le Sorcier de la guitare", Franco, who was certainly Remmy's main musical hero and a major influence on his music (audio 4).

I have met Remmy several times in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he struck me as a very passionate and sincere musician, whose main ambitions were with his public. "Singing for the poor" (see my earlier post) with Remmy Ongala was no cliché.

As a tribute to this great man and true African I would like to share with you this cassette which was released in 1989. It is a good example of Ongala in his purest form.

May he rest in peace.

AHD[MC] 6009

PS: the four fragments of the 1989 interview can also be downloaded as one file here.


dabulamanzi said...

Sad news. One of my very favourite artists.

joji said...

As artist simply the greatest in East_Africa. Nearly as great as his big example Franco.

He was a prophet. But not understood. Listen to the lyrics of 'Mambo kwa soksi".

Dakta, tutakukumbuka daima. Nyimbo zako hazitakufa. Kamwe.

Mwenyezi Mungu amlaze mahali pema peponi.

Anonymous said...

Indeed a great human being and musician


wuod k

grooVemonzter said...

Beautiful tape. Thank you so much for posting. And thank you Remmy Ongala. Rest is peace.

Anonymous said...

that is a very sad news - Remmy had always been one of my great musical heroes from Africa! His wonderful music will suvive!