Congolose rumba musician Mose Fan Fan was little known in Kenya up to around three years ago. His last great composition dates back to 1973, when he was a member of the TPOK Jazz in Kinshasa.
His name might not ring a bell to many young Kenyans, but many are now happily humming along to his popular song, "Papa Lolo".
Riding on the popularity of the song, Mose Fan Fan, who is now based in Britain, is planning a Kenyan tour next month or early in March. His guitarist Fiston Lusambo is currently in Nairobi finalising the tour arrangements.
"Papa Lolo" was first released in 2005, but only started getting popular in Kenya three years ago, thanks to the impact of social media in music promotion.
Mos Fan Fan’s last big hit was "Dje Melasi", released in 1973 when he was a member of Franco’s TPOK Jazz. He used to play the solo guitar for Franco’s outfit, one of the best guitarists of his generation.
Born in 1944 in Kinshasa as Mose Se Sengo, his interest in music dates back to his days at a boarding school in Bas, Congo. His guitar prowess was spotted after he joined Jaz Baron before moving to Rickem and later Revolution Band, from where Franco
poached him in 1968. He stayed with Franco until 1973, rising to become the assistant band leader.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation from London recently, Mose fondly recalled his closeness to Franco that enabled him learn and adopt his unique guitar playing style.
“Franco had a knack for encouraging us in guitar work, which was his mainstay,” he said.
With several fellow TPOK Jazz musicians, including singers Prince Youlou Mabiala and Kwammy, Mose left Franco’s outfit to form Orchestre Somo Somo.
In 1973, he left Kinshasa for Dar es Salaam in search of greener pastures.
He later crossed the border for Lusaka, where had stints with some session bands. He was then lured to Tanzania to join Orchestra Makassy, led by Mzee Makassy. While in Dar es Salaam, he recorded some songs including Molema and Ciska.
During his stay in Tanzania, he teamed up with musicians like Remmy Ongala ‘Sura Mbaya’ for a huge contribution to the development of music in Swahili by Congolese bands.
Dar es Salaam has for many years been an alternative base for other former TP OK Jazz musicians including Mayaula Mayoni, remembered for composing the hit song "Cherie Bondowe". Mayoni, who was the son of a diplomat, is also remembered as a
During his three years in Tanzania, Mose Fan Fan, also worked with Orchestra Safari Sound and Orchestra Maquis before he formed Orchestra Matimila with Remmy Ongala.
From Tanzania, Mose travelled to Kenya, where he met Robin Scott, the musician behind M’s ‘Pop Musik,’ who encouraged him to move to London.
Offered a contract by Stern’s Records, Mose assembled an English-based version of "Somo Somo". He would later produce an album with Bana OK, featuring several veterans of OK Jazz, but the project was later abandoned when the group failed to get
visas to stage a live concert. He then worked for six months as a civil servant with the Royal Army Medical Corps, but was inevitably drawn back to music.
He re-emerged in 1995, with a new album, Hello Hello, recorded with fellow Congolese musicians who were members of the Quatre Etoiles (Four Stars) — Syran Mbenza, Bopol Mansiamina, Wuta Mayi, Nyboma, Miguel Yamba, and Komba Mafwala and
guest stars Sam Mangwana and former colleague Youlou Mabiala.
Mose released the high-riding "Papa Lolo" in 2005, featuring Balou Canta on the vocals. Balou is remembered for his stints with Soukous Stars, which featured ace guitarists Lokassa ya Mbongo and Dally Kimoko, singers Shimita and Yondo Sister.
In 2014, Mose released his latest CD Musicaletama.
“I have been longing to perform in Kenya, where I recorded some songs in the early 1980s before moving to London,” he said.