Tabu Ley Rochereau, born Pascal Tabu Ley on November 13th, 1940, was not any more. This great voice of Africa was gone on November 30th, 2013 in Brussels. The emotion is lively on the continent and in all Europe today.
Born in Banningville, Pascal Emmanuel Sinamoyi Tabu started singing at church and within school choirs, in which schools he was student before joining, in 1959, Education Department of Congo where he began a state employee career, first as an administrative secretary for native Well-being Fund, then as an administrative and financial officer in Athenaeum of Kalina (current Gombe institute).
He was married with Georgette Mowana (alias “Tété”) with whom he had five children: Blackson Matthieu, Mireille-Esther, Colette, Gisèle and Isabelle.
He had six other children with Miss Zaire 1969, Jeanne Mokomo: Carine, Laty, Bob, Abel,
The rapper Youssoupha, his son, asserted that the father would have had 68 children! “That is a part of the folklore of the great African icon who had a lot of love and who gave it a lot”.
The son is very linked to the father. They sang together on the album “Noir D ****” of Youssoupha for the title “Les disques de mon père” (The Records of my father) and in duet on May 7th, 2012 at Olympia.
Tabu Ley Rochereau was a victim of a cerebrovascular accident in 2008, from which he never really recovered.
His career started in the 1950s. In 1956, he participated in a session of recording with the musician Grand Kalle (Joseph Kabasele). He proposed his songs to African Jazz, which enlisted him. He took then his stage name of Rochereau in homage to Belfort governor, Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau – from other sources, the nickname of Rochereau was given to him by his classmates, having given the answer to a history question which he was the only one to know.
Kelya, Adios Tété and Bonbon Sucré (sweet Candy) were his first songs that made him known by the public. He was then close to Patrice Lumumba’s Congolese national Movement.
He left African Jazz and joined “Jazz Africain” orchestra in November 1960, then created the African Fiesta Flash group in 1965. He composed between 1964 and 1968 about 200 songs.
He travelled and became famous all over the world. The group made tours to Brazzaville then to Montreal on the occasion of the World Exhibition of 1967.
In 1969, Rochereau hired dancers and a group of female dancers called “Rocherettes”, with whom he made his first Olympia.
By the way, Rochereau recorded in Dakar three 45 paying records of which the famous dance Soum Djoum. These 45 paying records contained the songs which became cult as ”Seli Ja ‘ Silikani, Mundi ‘and’ Samba”.
He launched a new orchestra, Continental which gave him his respectability.
He took himself passion for the pop that appeared in the song ‘Lal’a bi’, an interpretation in a local language of Congo of the famous song of Beatles ‘Let it be’.
He also liked amazing people with sometimes unexpected duets: “Permission” and “rendez-vous chez là-bas” with Mujos, “Souza and Maguy” with Sam Mangwana, “Ki makango mpe libala and Gipsy” with NDombe Pepe.
In October, 1971, facing troubles of his country, Pascal Tabu became “Tabu Ley”. He exiled himself in the United States then in Belgium, from where he took position against the dictatorship of Mobutu. He came back to Congo after the fall of the regime. “I was, on the other hand, defender of the republican and democratic values. My ways of perception of the songs I made, defended these aspirations, a little bit in opposition to those of Mobutu. Thus, from time to time, they arrested me. I was jailed twice for political reasons”
As artist, he actively militated, in particular, at the head of the movement, ‘La Force du people” (The Strength of the people). He was appointed consultative and legislative Assembly representative of transition. In 2005, he became deputy governor of Kinshasa.
For his 46 years of career, he was said to have composed more than 3 000 songs and sold thousands records. Four of his sons, Pegguy Tabu, Abel Tabu, Philémon and Youssoupha, followed him in this artistic career.
An outstanding personality left us.
Africa will not forget him so soon.