• Stephen Osieyo

THE CURSE OF A JILTED WOMAN'S TEARS: FRANCO LUAMBO

Updated: Apr 21, 2021


My mother always told me never to put myself in a position where I can see a woman’s tears. The biggest curse you can ever suffer is a woman leaving in tears. It is an incurable curse in Luo customs because they are the ones they classify as itieko gi dendi. Witch doctors run away from such curses. Other curses can be cured by manyasi or anti-dote but this one nobody has a cure for it. And sometimes its unseen, sometimes it is never shed but it is there.


One of the colonials' violation of African culture was to robe Europe onto Africa. Their religion was draped onto Africa without any consideration of local circumstances. Their economic friendly monogamous marriage system was straight-jacketed onto Africa with little regard to pre-existing families.


A good example is the Belgians insistence that Congolese bands overplay the South American records in Spanish. Some bands like OK Jazz did not even have members with basic education, let alone spoken French. And that is even before we get to Spanish. So with that basic education they had to compose in Bakongo to match the overplay. Then translate in broken French before looking for a Spanish translator. The end result was not selling to any of the speakers of Bakongo, French, or Spanish but was big business in North America.

Any resistance like any demands for better working conditions ended up in jail terms.


EARLY DAYS OF OK JAZZ

Francis Okanga aka Franco aka Luambo Makiadi and Victor Longomba of the legendry TP OK jazz like any business minded people thought of a long term plan to get out of this slavery. They took personal loans from their music producer guaranteed by the two of them to buy instruments which will be paid off through the sales. But the sales were abnormally low.


And still conditions did not change even though they were working longer hours to repay the loans. Then problems multiplied. Band members ran off to RockAmambo the rival publishing company. Victor Longomba and Franco had to stay behind because of contractual obligations.


They were now competing with not only Kabaselleh's African Jazz and RockAmambo but also with former OK Jazz members who had joined their rivals.


Facing defaulting and jail term, OK tried to match African Jazz by enticing Vita Football club fans to counter Motema Pembe Football club fans who were solidly following Kalle and African Jazz. But Vita fans were hardly moved as OK Jazz were minnows playing mouthful lyrics meant for people with limited education. It would only add ridicule from DC Motema Pembe fans.


Okanga Fuala as he was known in his rural home land was facing a second commercial jail term for failure to not only make repayment but also failure to support colonial directives.


Enter OK; Exit KO (via TKO)

Then Pauline Masuba just like a woman scans the fan environment then leads the trick of luring pretty dancing ladies for free admission, free drinks on the house and taxi ride home to attend OK performances.


The ladies' drill was to flirt (dholuo mbola/ngera) and keep the male patrons dancing from beginning to the end nonstop. Massage the male ego and technically Knock Them Out (TKO) when they quit the floor after being worn out. That was the ace card that Pauline threw to knock out the competitors of Okanga and OK Jazz and save Okanga and OK Jazz from being obliterated into history as just another band and another artist. The rest as they say is history.


JILTED PAULINE MASUBA

Pauline and Okanga lived happily from 1957-1972 but tragedy always lies in wait for good times.


Okanga who was now very successful, a member of the draconian MPR ruling party and a member of the dreaded state security/intelligence decided to take a 'second office' like all who-is-who in Kinshasa. It was not a marriage. Okanga truly loved Pauline and felt indebted to her but sometimes certain positions attract certain behaviour. Like an evolution purist once said, Habitat determines Habits. Jeannie was just another woman relationship who Europeans call mistress, Kenyans call 'cheating'(whatever) and Luos call chotne.


Professionally Jeannie was a member of Rocherettes' Olympia stage show dancing girls of Tabu Ley. Jeannie was so stunning that a house wife could not compete with her. Besides she was young and more educated than Pauline. She also had very provocative dances in her stage outfit of mini leaving nothing to imagination in a JAMES BOND 007 girls under wear for all to see. And Okanga was dazzled like a rabbit caught in a headlights.


But Pauline could have none of it. She would not share Okanga with a well "navigated woman" like Jeannie. I think in Dholuo that means 'andwayo' (In Ugenya kidology ndwa ndwe ndwi ndwo ndwu) which means watered down or in US stock exchange lingo 'watered down stock'. I guess the key word is water.



So Pauline:

  • · left Okanga home,

  • · left OK JAZZ,

  • · left Rumba music,

  • · left secular world

  • · left Kinshasa,

  • · left Congo,

  • · left Zaire

  • · left Africa and

  • · left for good to live in Europe.


Shortly after wards in early 1970s Empire Bakuba composed a hit song titled KANU which won best record of that year. The song is about a woman who bleats for the man she helped make the way Pauline helped make Franco. The song cut Franco Okanga so deeply that he even flew to Belgium to try and plead with Pauline. But Pauline would not badge. Okanga finally gave up.


Okanga then composed a song 'Tokoma Ba Camarade Pamba' as a nice parting song acknowledging his transgressions in the matter. And in a way to show gratitude to the respect Pauline exhibited.


Then Okanga accomplished one final mission. Back in Kinshasa, at ungodly hours, Okanga invited Empire Bakuba's big 3 band members to his house (Pepe Kalle, Dilu Dilumona and Papy Tex). He then made them pledge that 'should he die first then they must play KANU song' before he is lowered into the ground to symbolise Pauline's presence and as a penitence.


A divorce cuts both ways but there is no word for it in Dholuo because it was never a cultural practice until the white man came and straitjacketed it on Luo Nation.


FINAL DAYS.

Okanga who always composed some songs disparaging the government had composed a song titled Mario that was a about a very irresponsible young man who even though educated, very young and able spent his life living of the handouts from old women. The young man’s name was Mario. Keep that letter M. You may need it.


In earlier years Okanga had composed a song about slave trader Tipo Tip when the country began taking excessive loans, then he composed another one comparing the new government to the colonial Belgian government but poorly disguised as “I would rather marry a dog” (Nakobala Mbwa). The dogs symbolising the Belgian dogs and Sam Managwana leading with cheeky sounds of dogs howling in the background. He was even jailed when he composed a song about a woman with loose morals selling her wares in Europe. It was thinly disguised attack on the president’s habit of inviting government leaders and ministers to their “Kabarak or Gatundu”. At the same time sending a chopper to airlift their pretty wives to sleep with next door. First Lady would assume he was in intensive personal business. Of course they were personal but just not the right kind.  In some African customs you die for such sext acts. In this song Okanga disguised it as sodomy in faraway Europe. (He actually meant that sex in faraway “Kabarak”). When Franco spells it in the lyrics telling the character to "bathe well so that they can have unnatural sex", he is actually referring to "clean well with after sleeping with your husband". Dont forget Franco was also a listed member of intelligence service. Mobutu was not amused.


So this time when he composed Mario (M for Mobutu) stop living of this old women (old European governments), he expected the worst. Mario, you  have been educated (granted independent) and are skilled (wealthy) there was no doubt the attack was the usual enemy. They old women are tired of helping you, Mario. (The western governments do not need you as cold war is over), Okanga knew he was in big trouble.


He sneaked out to perform in Kenya. A Kenya he had bypassed for years due to lack of disposal income He ran all the way to Nam lolwe areas and over stayed. Incredibly he chose his exile destination as Kisumu. And he was well briefed.


Kisumu apart from being cheaper than Nairobi was peculiar location to run away from Mobutu’s security intelligence. This is the breeding ground of opposition politics and have a taste for any confrontation with any authority directive. Then Okanga names blends in Kisumu very well. Okanga was massively popular in Kisumu where he had seen riots because fans wanted to see him. The location was perfect


When his extended contract ended, Okanga feigned Malaria bouts to avoid even his own bands anniversary back in Kinshasa. He later left Kenya after another 2 weeks for an unscheduled visits to Zambia, Burundi and hell knows where else.


Okanga briefly came to Kinshasa and cheekily tried to defend Mario as just a song about a Portuguese as they use the name Mario for men. It was a hapless attempt. But just like what happened decades ago to Pauline, Okanga knew this Kinshasa is no longer home. Just like Pauline earlier, Okanga could not face Congo.


Like Pauline decades earlier, Okanga decided to flee to Europe never to return to Africa.


So Franco Okanga:

  • · left Okanga home,

  • · left OK JAZZ,

  • · left Rumba music,

  • · left secular world

  • · left Kinshasa,

  • · left Congo,

  • · left Zaire

  • · left Africa and

  • · left for good to die in Europe.



And despite his attempts to live in Europe like Pauline which included even visiting Catholics spiritual Lourdes for some last minute reprieve for life, it was not to be life for Okanga because religious of all ailing Luo men, they migrate to dhako ma Mikaye quarters. And there was no coming back to Africa either, the world that Pauline left for him because Pauline's tears had claimed what is rightfully hers and she was in no mood to let go of Franco Okanga Luambo. Not this time.

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