Popular Congolese guitarist Lokassa ya Mbongo dies in US

Wednesday March 15 2023
Legendary Congolese guitarist Lokassa ya Mbongo

Legendary Congolese guitarist Lokassa ya Mbongo who died in the US on March 14, 2023 after a long illness. PHOTO | COURTESY


Legendary Congolese guitarist Denis Lokassa Kasiya, popularly known as Lokassa ya Mbongo, died Tuesday night in the US after a long illness.

Lokassa, who recently turned 80, was the band leader of the popular Soukous Stars band, formerly based in Paris. Earlier, he had a stint with Tabu Ley Rochereau's Afrisa International and later the All African Stars band.  He had been battling with diabetes and was recuperating from a mild stroke he suffered a few years ago.

His fellow US-based Congolese musician Mekanisi Modero said he had been informed about Lokassa's death by a nurse who has been taking care of him. She said he had breathing difficulties before he collapsed and died in Nashua, New Hamsphire.

Also living in the same state is singer Wawali Bonane, also with The Afrisa International Band. He had visited Lokassa and said was devasted by the sad news.

Another Congolese musician Ngouma Lokito, who lives in New York, broke the sad news to his fans through a Facebook post.

Members of Paris-based Soukous Stars

Members of Paris-based Soukous Stars, among them the late Lokassa ya Mbongo (2nd left), when they arrived in Nairobi to perform at the URTNA concert in 1993. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Popular compositions

Lokassa, a chequered guitarist and composer, will be remembered for some of his popular compositions such as “Bonne Annee”, “Monica”, “Marie-Josse” and “Assitou”.

He was arguably one of the best rhythm guitarists from Congo, having performed with Tabu Ley Rochereau's Afrisa International band from 1970 to 1978.   During his stint with Afrisa, he played alongside singers Pepe Ndombe, Sam Mangwana and Michelino Mavatiku Visi.  However, Lokassa spent a greater part of his career based outside DR Congo.

Shows in Kenya

In Kenya, fans of the Soukous Stars will remember in the early and mid -1990s when Lokassa was in the frontline during a concert tour.

Nairobi-based Lingala music fan and fashion icon Sammy Wamuri Ya Kembo recalled having interacted with Lokassa during Soukous Stars shows in Kenya in the early 1990s. Some of the shows were organised by Congolese promoter Tamukati Ndongala of Tamukati Productions.

In an effort to win the hearts of Lingala music fans in East Africa, the group released their debut "Nairobi Night'. It featured reworkings of some of the popular tracks by East African musicians like “Dada Rosa” by the legendary Tabora Jazz and “Vigelegele ndio furaha” by Western Jazz band.

Details of Lokassa’s funeral arrangements will be announced later.

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