Defao returns to Europe for first time in 17 years

Friday December 29 2017

Congolese crooner General Defao (left) is received in Paris, France  by Babin Masombo, a rumba music fan and activist living in France on December 21, 2017. Defao last visited Europe 17 years ago. PHOTO| COURTESY

Congolese crooner General Defao (left) is received in Paris, France  by Babin Masombo, a rumba music fan and activist living in France on December 21, 2017. Defao last visited Europe 17 years ago. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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For Nairobi-based Congolese musician General Defao Matumona, the year appears to be ending on a positive note and the new one beginning with the continuation of a good spell that is likely to rejuvenate his career. The man known for his big song "Sala Noki" is on a concert tour of Europe after 17-year hiatus. Being back in Europe is a dream come true for the singer, who has been in self-imposed exile, having left his native Democratic Republic of Congo as he was not in the good books of President Joseph Kabila and his associates.

The burly singer and composer of songs like Famile Kikuta, Phily Mbala, Copinage, Amour Scolaire, and Agence Courage, led his Big Stars band in the 1990s. He has been living in Nairobi since early 2003.

He earlier had a stint with Choc Stars band where he teamed up with others like Debaba (deceased), Nzayadio, Lassa Carlito, Roxy Tshimpaka and Djuna Djanana. While with Choc stars, he released Chagrin Dimone and Mokolo Mosusu (duet with Debaba).

With the apparent hostility back home and his not-so-cosy relationship with the Kabila government, Defao chose to make Nairobi his musical base.

His London-based compatriot, guitarist and producer Fiston Lusambo, confirmed that Defao left Nairobi on December 20, for his European concert tour.

“He flew to Paris soon after we completed recording two songs  with him:  on my Maisha album,” Fiston said.

Fiston and Tanzanian percussionist Saidi Tumba Kanda arrived in Nairobi early this month for joint recordings with Defao. They teamed up with former Choc Stars guitarist Sedjoka.

According to Fiston, Defao’s tour of Europe was organised by a group of Congolese nationals living in Europe. His first show was on December 22, in Paris, a city that has lately been a hostile ground for Kinshasa-based stars, who have been given a rough time by their compatriots opposed to their embracing of Kabila. They often create ugly scenes, leading to the cancellation of concerts.

Defao didn’t encounter any opposition, as he is viewed as being in opposition to Kabila. His second performance was on December 24, in Bern, Switzerland.

Last night, he was due to perform in Lyon, France, before returning to Switzerland for another show.

Kinshasa-based stars Koffi Olomide, Nyoka Longo, Werra Son, JB Mpiana, and others perceived to be close to Kabila were not so lucky, as their concerts were disrupted by rights activists protesting repression, misrule and corruption back home in DRC.

Defao is the one of the few visiting Congolese artiste whom the activists have allowed to perform in Europe freely. In the recent past, an anti-Kabila wing of Congolese exiles (le combattants) have blocked some of their home-based stars from the lucrative deals of performing at premier venues in Europe.

Unknown to many of his fans, Defao, who is still widely respected back home in DRC, has been quietly living in Nairobi.

He was once on the wrong side of the law for failing to pay his hotel bills, as his fortunes dwindled. In 2002, he was controversially locked up at the Industrial Area Prison in Nairobi over unpaid hotel bills after his promoter defaulted. He was eventually bailed out by a fan, who fulfilled the court’s surety conditions.

With things a little streamlined, he has continued to live in Nairobi, but occasionally travels to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to perform.

A determined Defao never gave up on his bid to make Nairobi his second musical home. His fellow Congolese stars, including former Wenge Musica drummer Tiitina Alcapone, former Empire Bakuba band guitarist Lofombe Gode and Fiston, have since occasionally flown in from DRC and Europe to team up with him in recording new music.

Fiston says Defao will be in Europe until March next year.

While in Europe, Defao is also expected to continue production of a new album.