African Music

AfricOriginal: Koffi Olomide

AfricOriginal: Koffi Olomide

Koffi Olomide is a Congolese guitarist, singer and songwriter credited with injecting new life into the popular music called soukous, one of the most popular forms of dance music in West Africa. He wrote songs for Papa Wemba and Zaiko Langa Langa before starting his own band, Quartier Latin, in 1986. He invented a new soukous rhythm dubbed tchao tcho and was one of the top bandleaders and songwriters on the European world music scene in the 90s. He continues to tour and record with Quartier Latin in the new millennium.

Olomide was born on Friday the 13th of August 1956 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Kinshasa, the capital, while he was a boy. He was a sickly child, although he grew up in a middle class family. He started making up songs when he was seven and in his teens became known for writing new words to the melodies of popular hits, especially the songs of Tabu Ley Rochereau, one of the Congo’s legendary singers. He learned enough music on guitars borrowed from friends to impress a neighbor, who offered to teach the young Olomide how to play. Music remained a hobby though and his family sent him to Paris to finish university. Back home on holidays, with his brother’s encouragement, Olomide recorded a few of his own songs. Two of them, “Asso” and “Princesse Ya Senza,” were hits and soon Papa Wemba and Zaiko Langa Langa were recording his tunes. He recorded several singles with Papa Wemba including the hit “Anibo


After graduation in 1980, Olomide returned to Congo and decided to become a professional musician. He cut his first solo album in Belgium with producer Roland Leclerc in 1983 and returned to Congo for two collaborations with well-known singers Fafa de Molokai and Yakini Kiesse. Olomide started his own band, Quartier Latin, in 1986 and started turning out singles and albums on a regular basis, both under his own name and as Quartier Latin. Influenced by the zouk band Kassav’, Olomide incorporated international dance music and electronics into his sound. His international success started with 1987’s hits “Kiki Ewing” and “Ngobila” released internationally on the album Diva and 1998’s Henriquet and the 1988 Congolese album Golden Star dans Stephie. They were compiled and released later as Tcha Tcho by Stern’s UK.

In 1991 Olomide took his tcha tcho beat international by signing with the French Sonodisc label. He began recording new tunes and newer versions of old material on a series of hit albums including Les Prisonniers Dorment, Pas de Faux Pas, Noblesse Oblige (1992), which went gold, Magie (1994) with Quartier Latin, and V12 (1995). In 1994 Olomide was named Best Male Artist at the African Music Awards. In 1996 he reunited with is first boss, Papa Wemba, for the collaboration  Wake Up.

In 1997 Olomide became a pop star in France and much of Europe with the success of Loi (1997) and Ultimatum (1997) recorded with his band Quartier Latin. He played the Olympia in 1998 and released the concert as Live a L’Olympia (1997). Droit de Veto (1999) another Quartier Latin album earned him his second gold album just six months after its release in France. Attentat went almost instantly gold; with Quartier Latin he headlined Bercy Stadium, the largest concert venue in Paris. The album Live a Bercy (2000) captured their high-energy show.

A world tour in 2001 took him to the US and in December of that year he dropped the double solo album Effrakata (2001) He made Affaire d’Etat (2003) with Quartier Latin shortly before Sonodisc went bankrupt. His next solo outing, the double CD Monde Arabe was released by Sonima 2004. He celebrated 20th years as an artist with a tour of Europe and Africa and the album Danger de Mort (2006) made with his band Quartier Latin.

In October 2007, he returned to the Zenith in paris and in 2008 he returned with the double album Koffi. Each of the two CDs begins with a duet, one with Youssou N’Dour and the other with Lokua Kanza. There are also several songs with Cindy Le Coeur, a young, promising Congolese artist whom Koffi Olomide took under his wing. She was also part of his line up when he returned to the Zenith in Paris in 2009. Their artistic relationship materialised in a live CD from a show given in Kinshasa in February 2010, entitled Cindy chante Koffi.

The formula worked so well that the boss of Quartier Latin continues with the CD Koffi sings Tabu Ley. In this period several choristers and dancers filed a complaint against their band leader for rape and forcible confinement. In February 2012, he was indicted in this case while his new album Abracadabra was the victim of intensive piracy even before its release. His antourage attributes this action to the collective of Combatants, opponents of the regime in Kinshasa, who perform harsh actions in Europe against artists they suspect to support the head of state. 
In August, the singer appeared in Kinshasa on charges of intentional assault on his producer. For this fact, he was sentenced to three months suspended prison sentence. 

Musically he makes a name for himself in 2013 with an extraordinary production, consisting of 4 CDs that together contain 39 songs. The album contains several duets including Cindy le Coeur, Ferre Gola and Evoloko and is entitled 13ieme Apôtre (13th Apostle). The album is released simultaneously released in France and the DRC on October 13, 2013 (10/13/13) at 1:13 pm, according to the express wish of Koffi Olomide. 

Unfortunately, in July 2016, he is once again discredited when film footage becomes public, showing how the singer hits one of his singers during a tour in Kenya. He is expelled from the country. Back in the DRC, he was imprisoned on July 26 in Kinshasa after being charged with “intentional assault and battery” a complaint having been filed by a deputy chocked by the singer’s attitude. After 4 days in detention, he was released on bail but remained prosecuted.

On August 7, he reappears on stage for the 10-year career of Fally Ipupa, a former member of the Latin Quarter. And on August 13, he performed at the Kintambo Velodrome stadium under the theme “Koffi sings freely”. He took the opportunity to celebrate, among other things, his 60th birthday.  In 2017 the album Nyataquance will be released, with the song Pardon, on which the singer seems to ask the African woman forgiveness for the mistakes he made earlier.

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