East Africa

Tabu Ley Rochereau, king of Congolese rumba dies

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African superstar and king of Congolese rumba Tabu Ley Rochereau died on Saturday aged 76 in a hospital in Belgium, his family said.

Tributes poured in for the singer-songwriter whose melodies touched generations across Africa, as his son-in-law said a state funeral would be held in Kinshasa, where Tabu Ley would also be buried.

Tabu Ley, who had also been a politician, had never recovered from a stroke in 2008 and his situation deteriorated on Monday, said the son-in-law Jean-Claude Muissa.

Born November 13, 1937 in a small village in the western Congolese province of Bandundu, Pascal Tabu Ley, also known as "Rochereau", became the star of Congolese rumba in the 1960s.

With his songs including "Adios Thethe" and "Mokolo nakokufa" (the day of my death), Tabu Ley helped popularise the music genre, and in 1970 became the first African musician to perform at the Paris Olympia music hall.

"He was a superstar in all of Africa," said Francois Bensignor from Paris-based music centre IRMA.

He was also once acclaimed by news magazine Jeune Afrique "as the Congolese personality who, along with (former Congolese president) Mobutu, marked Africa's 20th century history," said Leon Tsambu, a specialist in Congolese music.

At home, Tabu Ley was not just a musician, but also dabbled in politics.

He had hoped to become minister of culture under president Laurent-Desire Kabila — the father of President Joseph Kabila, but eventually settled for the post of vice-governor of Kinshasa.

He was forced into exile during Mobutu Sese Seko's rule that spanned 1965 to 1997, and in 1990, the strongman's regime banned his album "Trop, c'est trop" (Too much is too much).

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