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A Negro Succes Weekend

A weekend is incomplete without rumba from Negro Succes

The weekend is already here and music is ever my first resort. I turn to my music player and my first touch falls on Negro Succes, and I get playing:

  “Kamata ngai tolimwa mboka mosika oh oh bolingo ye ye…” begins the song by one Bholen Bombolo wa Lokole, the Negro Succes chef d’ochestra.

This song was pressed with the title Weekend Ba Plaisir Ya Kins (Weekends are fun in Kinshasa) released in 1967. This reminds me of a poster I came across in the interwebs that highlighted where Negro Succes would perform in 1961. I wish I was there in Kinshasa, to attend; I wish I was born in Kinshasa in 1944, growing up even in Kasavubu and come of age to dance to Malou Kobanga Te (Malou Do not be Afraid) when it was released in 1967.

Miss Leo 1961 Beauty Pageant that featured Negros Succes

A Negro Succes Weekend: Why I am a Negro’s numero uno

First, it is about the band’s style. It is slow and soothing, a process that cools down your worries, and before you know it, you are sleeping willingly. Bholen was the chief solo guitarist; a man of experience who would replace Le Grand Maitre Franco Luambo Luanzo Makiadi aka Otoyo briefly at OK Jazz in 1959, when Grand Maitre was arrested for violating traffic rules. He was also a few years older than Franco and he was in his own school of music. This, in my view, puts him above most solo guitarists of his time but unfortunately, only a few appreciate him in the same magnitude. The most decorated work of his hand in his prime times is the song Ngai Mwana 15 Ans  (I am a child of 15 years of age) done in 1967.

Then there was Bavon Siongo (better known as Bavon Marie Marie) a young talented, and lethal solo guitarist. He was naturally, a troublemaker. Bavon had a passion for music, and he was determined to play it. His first songs hit Kinshasa hard and were very infectious. And he enjoyed fame to his death. Milles Zaire pour Lucie (A Thousand Zaire for Lucie) released in 1969 is my favourite, and it is one of the three songs he did for his lover Lucie. The other two are Lucie Tozongana and Lucie Pauni Antalo both released in 1969.

The Vocalists

Negro Succes vocal lineup consisted of voices that Republique Democratique du Congo, otherwise authentically called Zaire, will never forget. Leon Amba Zozo was the main vocalist with backups from Flujos Ngongo, Didi Kalombo, Djeskin Dihujnga, Gaspard Luwowo, and Rocky Bokenenge. These natural-born talents delivered soul-touching vocals with perfect precision that saw Negro rival established bands in Kinshasa. Leon Amba Zozo and Flujos Ngongo paired so well and delivered very touching numbers like Askin, Defailant, Naleli Coco, Kusala Cherie just to name a few.

But someone would argue that the success of Negro Succes depended on Bavon Marie Marie. I would not, though it baffles me why the band did not last after Bavon’s tragic death on 5 August 1970.

Bavon participated in a few songs for the band, compared to Amba Zozo or Bholen Bombolo. Or, maybe, just maybe, did the release of Maseke Ya Meme (The Horns of Sheep) released in 1970  led to the death of the band? The youth in Kinshasa identified themselves with this band because they redefined dressing, dancing, partying etcetera. Bavon, for example, had his own tailleur and was a sapeur. Bholen had a taste for designer suits. So organized they were that their success in the ‘60s is only understandable.

But someone would argue that the success of Negro Succes depended on Bavon Marie Marie. I would not, though it baffles me why the band did not last after Bavon’s tragic death on 5 August 1970.

Maseke Ya Meme was a big hit, and I like the song every bit. Released posthumously, Bavon had written this song in a manner that somehow meant that he would go too soon, sooner than the song would be released, and it happened so. The band brought in Paul Mandinagu Dercy, and they released quite a number of classics, but success was hard to come by and members deserted Bholen leading to the death of Negro Succes in 1973.

Bavon: The Pillar of Negro Succes?

 Back to the life of Bavon, the young man enjoyed his fame and lived his life, involving himself in all sorts of stuff. He was a smoker and a lover of women – is this avoidable when you are a star of Bavon calibre? And by the way, Bavon left behind eight children from six different women, at 26. “Masta na nga oza boni?” (My friend how are you) would be Bavon’s first words to anyone. To him, everyone was a masta – a friend. And so for this weekend, I will be playing Negro Succes, but exclusively Bavon’s songs at Negro Succes, and even at Orchestra Vox Action.

 Let’s meet here next weekend when I will be talking about the relationship that Negro Succes had with other celebrities in Kinshasa and how that contributed to their success. “Soki otie tembe tuna Andele Maboke….” (If you have doubt ask Andele Maboke). See you.

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