The bad boy of DRC
Posted Thursday, August 23 2012 at 19:00
- Stardom has a way of going into people’s heads which is hardly surprising when legions of adoring fans elevate mere mortals to near-divine heights. Is it happening to the suave Congolese crooner Koffi Olomide?
- Why controversy might as well be Koffi Olomide’s second name
During the burial of rhumba great Pepe Ndombe Opetum he had the gumption to jump the VIP queue as respects were paid to the late OK Jazz crooner.
He has called himself Pope, a French president and generally broken every rule in the book. Has Congolese tcha tcho star Koffi Olomide hit the road to self-destruction?
He may have got off lightly with a three-month suspended sentence last week on charges of assaulting his producer, but popular Congolese musician Antoine Agbepa Mumba, better known as Koffi Olomide, is going through a rough patch.
Many music commentators generally agree that, Olomide, 56, and one of Democratic Republic of Congo’s most prolific musicians, with a string of hits under his belt, is today a pale shadow of what he was some 10 or so years ago, at the peak of success as a mega African recording artiste.
His famous Quartier Latin International Band that churned out hit after hit in Koffi’s heyday, is also a shell of its former self.
But the man, who goes by numerous nicknames and praise aliases, including Grand Mopao, Mokonzi, Tcha Tcho king, Shakespeare of Zaire, Nkolo Lupemba and Sarkozy, after former French President Nicola Sarkozy, never shies away from controversy.
A couple of years ago he blithely stepped on the toes of many Catholics in Kinshasa when he added “Benedict XVI of the Congo” to his names. This was seen as affront on Pope Benedict XVI -the global head of the Catholic church. Worse still he placed banners at various spots in Kinshasa.
As Robert Osano a lingala music fan who has lived in Kinshasa recalls: “There was a public outcry over the use of the Pope’s name in his promotional material. This was the vintage Koffi Olomide; ever controversial”.
Koffi made his debut as an excellent songwriter when most of his earlier compositions in the late 70s and 80s were released through Papa Wemba’s Orch Viva La Musica Band.
As Nairobi based Congolese musician Kasongo wa Kanema, of the Super Mazembe fame, noted Koffi had often out-smarted others by labelling his albums with coded messages.
“Most of his songs, though with perfect and unique arrangements, have turned out to hit at certain people often with different meanings from what we know,” says Wa-Kanema.
Similarly Kasongo regrets that Koffi whose music is loved by many, now finds himself in the embarrassing situation of being hurled to court.
Some of Koffi’s greatest songs include “Papa Plus”, “Futa Djalon”, “Andraa”, Loi, Mbirime, Micko,Attentat and Ngounda.
Koffi’s latest brush with the law arose from a disagreement with his producer Diego Lubaki, over 3,000 Euros (Sh300,000). If you drive a spanking Mercedes Benz or the ego-oozing Hummer, some people expect lots of civility from you. Especially when you once won a scholarship to study in Bordeaux, France, where you obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics.
According to his Paris-based counterpart Nyboma Mwandido the incident was an unfortunate one for his image. The faux pas, as they are wont to term in DRC, happened at Kinshasa’s Zenith Hotel and was the latest in the series of incidents Koffi has had with promoters.
“Koffi confronted the producer demanding his dues thereafter it become physical,” Nyboma told DN2 on phone from the DRC capital.
Nyboma who has recorded with Koffi songs like “Anicet” and sung on Koffi’s “Papa Bonheur” feels there is still time for Koffi to redeem his image. “Koffi is definitely going through some difficult time and we hope he sails through well,” Nyboma added.
For the past almost three years Koffi has not been able to stage any shows in Europe partly due to a pending court case over harassment of dancers and threats from the radical anti-Kabila “combatants” who are opposed to Kinshasa-based groups performing in Europe.