For mercurial Congolese crooner Koffi Olomide, the last week is one he would he like to forget in a hurry; it was the week he was presumed dead.
On Saturday, an emotional Olomide came out to clear the air. He held a 15 minute televised press conference in Kinshasa. A Kenyan living in Kinshasa, Mr Robert Osano, said, Olomide fought back tears, but occasionally sobbed as he blamed his detractors for the rumours.
“Olomide made it clear that at no time he had he been involved in a road accident as rumours had put it,” Mr Osano said.
The interview transmitted via Canal Congo TV and hosted by Aisha Okoko from 9.30pm (Central African Time) “was the great step in quelling the rumours”, Mr Osano added.
Olomide also broke down as he talked of his ailing father who was abroad, and wondered why his detractors would start the rumours when his father needed moral support. His elder brother Johnny Ko lives in Paris too.
Olomide’s mother is a jewellery dealer at the Zando market in Kinshasa. She has all along stood by Olomide in his musical battles.
Olomide assured his fans that he would launch his latest album on February 27, and also stage a major concert next Sunday at the Chez Bibi in Kinshasa.
In East Africa, rumours of his death have been doing the rounds on social networking sites and FM radio stations since Friday.
The 54-year-old musician, one of the most prolific composers, has all along been in good health, churning out numerous new titles, most of which have been posted on YouTube.
Close associates in DR Congo said tales of Olomide’s death made them ponder what could have sparked the rumour.
Before the interview, musician and producer Lofombo Gode, speaking to the Nation from Kinshasa, was among the first to confirm that Olomide was as fit as fiddle with his Quartier Latin band.
“As far as I’m concerned, nothing unusual happened to Koffi,” he said.
In Nairobi, promoter Jules Nsana also confirmed having spoken to Olomide and said he would convene a press conference to clarify the matter.
Several of Olomide’s contemporaries, both in Kinshasa and Paris, also confirmed that he was well, among them Nyboma Mwandido and veteran former Afrisa International guitarist Dino Vangu. Nyboma earlier spoke to Olomide’s elder brother Johnny Ko who also dispelled the rumours.
The rumours were similar to those last year when some radio and TV stations falsely claimed the death of veteran musician Tabu Ley. Tabu Ley is recuperating in Paris from a mild stroke in July 2008.
Controversy has never ceased to dog Olomide, whose real name is Antoine Agpeba. He has often fallen foul of the DRC government over some lyrics, but this only enhanced his popularity.
Olomide, who won four Kora awards, appears to rival the recording prowess of the legendary Franco (Luambo Luanzo Makiadi), the man who straddled the Congolese music scene like a colossus for three decades before he died in Belgium in 1989.
Koffi excels at choreography, with well-tailored outfits for his singers and dancers. He popularised skimpy, figure-hugging outfits for female dancers. His biggest hits include Andrada, Monde Arabe, Loi, Effrakata and Ultimatum.
His versatile band has served as the training ground for many. It has about 20 members, including immensely talented female dancers and singers.
Olomide is reputed to be among DRC’s wealthiest and most educated, with a degree in economics from France.