Covid-19 fears: Family calls off Simaro anniversary fete

Events to mark the first anniversary of the death of Congolese music maestro Lutumba Simaro Masiya that had been scheduled for next week in Kinshasa have been put off until later in the year.

According to family members, the delay was prompted by the global outbreak of the deadly coronavirus disease.

The poet Simaro’s son, Salomon Lutumba, issued a statement in which he pointed out that the family had heeded the government’s appeal to call off all social events.

According to the programme that had been released earlier, events were to start with the posthumous marking of the former long-serving TPOK Jazz vice-president’s 82nd birthday last Thursday. He was a loyal assistant and confidant of grandmaster Franco (Luambo Luanzo Makiadi) for several decades.

Among the activities that had been lined up for the day was a photo exhibition on Avenue Lisangi, located between Kutu and Mushi in Kinshasa.

A fundraising had been slated for next Saturday for the Poete Lutumba Foundation. This would have culminated in the laying of wreaths on his graveside at the Necroplis Cemetry, on March 30.

The highlight of the anniversary was to have been a special concert on March 30, featuring members of Bana OK, the offshoot formed after a falling-out with the Franco family over the control of TPOK Jazz.

Notably, Simaro had been grooming Orch Wenge Musica singer Manda Chante to take charge at the helm of Bana OK.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation on Thursday, Paris-based Congolese children’s books author Alpha Mode, a niece of Simaro, said the ceremony might be held in July.

“As a family, we have agreed to put on hold all the activities marking his death. Right now, nothing is possible, as there is a lockdown in France, the UK, Belgium and many other parts of Europe,” she said.

She would have flown to Kinshasa with her cousin Laura Lutumba for the anniversary celebrations. Simaro’s widow Hellen Nkelani and the rest of the family members are in Kinshasa. Also on the cards for the cancelled celebration was a judo tournament, football and lyrical poetry contest that were to be held next week.

The legendary composer and guitarist, popularly known as “Le Poete (the poet)”, who died on March 30 last year, is best remembered for his great compositions.

A remarkable feat by Simaro, who died at 81, was his choice of commanding solo voices in some of his most popular compositions. The most notable songs featuring lone vocalists were “Mabele” (Sam Mangwana), “Kadima” (Djo Mpoyi), “Dati Petrole” (Madilu System), “Ebale ya Zaire” (Sam Mangwana), and “Faute Ya Commercant” (Sam Mangwana). Others were “Maya” (Carlito Lassa), “Testament ya Bowule” (Malage Lugendo), “Mandola” (Djo Mpoyi), “Mbongo” (Djo Mpoyi) and “Mobali ya Bato” (Mbilia Bel).

Many of his fans will recall with nostalgia “Mabele”, in which he had predicted a thunderstorm on the day he would die. He sang: “Mokolo nakokufa kake ekobeta … moto nanga bakamata basala monument (The day I will die, lightning will strike and they will turn my head into a monument …”).

Indeed, on March 30 last year, after news of his death broke, it came to pass that there was a thunderstorm and flashfloods in Kinshasa.

But it was a double tragedy for rhumba fans when Simaro’s colleague in TPOK Jazz, Mose Sengo (Fan Fan) of the “Dje Melasi” and “Papa Lolo” hit songs fame, collapsed and died in Nairobi on May 2 last year, two days before Simaro’s burial in Kinshasa.