Leading Congolese music promoter Tamukati Ndongala is dead.
His death in Kinshasa on Friday morning immediately plunged the music fraternity in the Democratic Republic of Congo into mourning, with reflections on Tamukati’s immense contribution to popularising Lingala music concerts in East, Central, southern and west Africa.
According to his widow Chantal Tezzo, who broke the news to the Sunday Nation on Saturday, Tamukati died after a short illness.
Also speaking to the Sunday Nation from Kinshasa, guitarist and producer Lofombo Gode said he had been saddened by the news.
Fans from across Europe and the USA sent condolence messages.
In Kenya, Tamukati will be best remembered for having pioneered what would later become showcase concerts by top Congolese musicians and bands.
He arranged visits by leading Congolese music stars such as Tshala Muana, Zaiko Langa Langa-Familia Dei, crooner Bozi Boziana, Kanda Bongoman and Koffi Olomide.
One of Tamukati’s most historic concerts was a debut show by Kanda Bongoman, who toured Kenya in April 1991.
A purported challenge to compete against popular Kikuyu musician Joseph Kamaru drew one of the largest crowds ever to the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
It was then that retired President Daniel arap Moi asked, tongue-in-cheek, “Kanda Bongoman ni nani (Who is Kanda Bongo man)?”
He was obviously curious at the immense interest in the big show.
He invited Tshala Muana for her maiden tour but it was postponed following demonstrations over the murder of the then Foreign Minister Robert Ouko in 1990.
Iin 1991, Tamukati brought back Tshala Muana for an East African tour backed by the Nairobi-based Ibeba System band.
Another major breakthrough for Tamukati was in 1993 when he brought Congolese crooner Koffi Olomide to Nairobi for a show backed by his group Orch Quatier Latin International Band.
In the same year, Tamukati also returned with superstar Bozi Boziana for a tour of Kenya and other East African countries.
In October, Tam, as he was fondly known among music fans, brought the great Papa Wemba for his debut show in Kenya at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel.
Last month, in a social media chat with this writer, Tamukati sounded quite jovial and said he was looking forward to cheering the DR Congo national football team that was taking part in the recent Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon.
Tamukati had taken a low profile since The Ndongalas returned to Kinshasa from their musical sojourn in America mid last year.