Africa Mourns ‘king Of Congolese Rumba’

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Rediscovery of Lost African Music

Ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey (left) taking notes about one of his father’s, Hugh Tracey’s, tape recordings at the International Library of African Music

RIP Tabu Ley. The music world has lost a true icon, tweeted a well-known Kenyan musician. Rest in peace to one of the planets great singers, Tabu Ley Rochereau, tweeted a respected US music critic. Another seasoned Africa correspondent based in the UK noted, Amazing there is nothing in the Sunday papers on Tabu Ley Rochereau, a musical megastar with political significance, who died yesterday. More than half-a-century after most African nations gained independence, its still a challenge for the continents musicians to access a truly international platform. But for world music aficionados and his African fans who danced, romanced and swooned to his tunes, Rochereau was the man who internationalised Congolese music singing in three European languages besides his native Lingala, fusing Congolese folk music with Cuban, French pop, rock n roll, funk, as well as Caribbean rumba. The legendary musician is considered one of the pioneers of soukous, a genre of dance music that has its roots in African rumba music of the Belgian Congo and French Congo in the 1940s. He is probably best known for singing the pan-African hit, Independance Cha Cha, which became the unofficial nationalist anthem for the newly independent African states.
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The sounds he collected using primitive equipment have been re-mastered by the International Library of African Music in South Africa. An installation at an exhibition in South Africa to honor Hugh Tracey and traditional African music. He recorded tens of thousands of songs about countless subjects (Photo: Darren Taylor) One of these CDs contains music Hugh Tracey recorded in 1952 at the court of the Tutsi mwami (king) in Rwanda. When the country became independent of Belgium in 1961, the monarchy was scrapped and the music it had fostered vanished. Again because of his fathers foresight, said Andrew, the powerful and sophisticated sound of Rwandas royal court survived. There are expatriate groups of Tutsis who actually try and keep that music going and they are able to make use of (my fathers) recordings to try and reconstruct it, Andrew explained.
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