Music: Death of Lokassa Ya Mbongo, one of the prolific guitarists of Congolese rumba and soukouss

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Congolese rumba lost one of its emblematic figures on the guitar side, at dawn on Wednesday 15 March. Lokassa Kasia Denis, known as Lokassa Ya Mbongo, a renowned guitarist, passed away in the United States of America at the age of 77. He had known the guitar around the age of 14 years, discovered in him a talent that will cross the eras of Congolese music to the point that some consider him as the greatest accompanist of all times, in Congolese music.

The African music label Syllart, which announced it, paid tribute to a great virtuoso of the rhythm guitar who made more than 50 years of musical career, affirming that he developed an intense and eclectic style of rumba which announced the advent of soukous. Congolese music lovers miss this artist who enlivened them with sounds such as “Moyibi” with Pépé Kale, “Comme la rue” with King Kester or “Marie-José”.

Lokassa Kasia Denis began his career in the 60s with the Orchestra Diamant Bleu, then he evolved in African Fiesta National Tabu Ley Rochereau, which became Afrisa from 1970. Eight years later, he founded his own group African All Stars with Sam Mangwana, Dizzy Mandjeku, Théo Blaise Kounkou and Ringo Moya. He moved to Paris at the beginning of the 80’s where he took part in several sessions with many Congolese artists, including Abeti Masikini, Kanda Bongo Man, Ballou Canta, Kass Kass and Empire Bakuba.

In 1985, he signed his solo album “Adiza”. This was before he founded Soukous Stars in 1989, the supergroup that turned the Afro-Parisian scene upside down and defined the Soukous style, conquering the hearts of Colombians with the classics “Nairobi Night” and “Lagos Night”. This happened after he played on the stage of the Olympia in Paris, in 1970 with Tabu Ley, a first for Congolese. Then, 25 other emblematic concerts took place at the same venue, of which he was part.

“In the world of Congolese music where the main guitarists almost always get the glory, Lokassa is the rare bird who played rhythm guitar to fame,” reads the walls of some Internet users.

Born in 1946 in Kinshasa, Lokassa has had a significant impact on the music industry in Africa and beyond. In a career spanning more than 30 years, he has become one of the most renowned Congolese rhythm guitarists. His nimble fingers have set the rhythm for a number of Kinshasa rumba classics and a variety of Parisian soukous hits. He has also made his mark as a leader and arranger, contributing greatly to the evolution and proliferation of the Congolo-Paris sound.

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