17 October 2017

Kenya: #KorogaFestival Behind the Scenes With Fally Ipupa - the Lion of Africa

Photo: Fally Ipupa/Instagram
Fally Ipupa.

"You put on 3 hours of a nonstop electrifying performance. We're still nursing the hangover and can't stop talking about Sunday" (Miss_Gumbo)

"C'est toi le Roi, voila l'image qui parler au pays anglophone" (davidbahati11)

"I don't even know Lingala but Fally you're the baddest. I love you to death. Kenya loves you."

I give my all to music; I record a song every single day. Music is my life - Fally Ipupa

With the self assuredness of a Parisian gentleman, the man in the middle of the entourage walks confidently out of the arrivals at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and makes his way to his welcoming party. Celebrated Congolese superstar Fally Ipupa had landed for the 19th edition of the Koroga Festival, a bi monthly event held by Capital FM at the Carnivore Grounds in Nairobi.

Dressed casually, Ipupa, whose other name Nsimba means lion, stopped to address the press urging his fans to show up for the festival where he promised to deliver a spectacular show. He cracked a smile, when he saw his friend Muki Garang at the airport; and, after a quick exchange of pleasantries, was whisked away to his 5 star hotel accompanied by his assistant manager Souleymane Kahuka who had travelled with him in the absence of his manager Madina Djoboungue.

"I enjoy Nyama Choma", and I like it well done he says as he perused what was on offer for his dinner service.

The secluded dining area at Fally's hotel had been alerted of his late arrival and there were very few guests when he walked in to take his dinner. The top rated chefs, pleased to be serving such a high profile guest ensured that his meal was done to perfection, while he relaxed ahead of the next 24 hours where he was set to bring Nairobi to a standstill.

With numerous awards under his belt, it's important to understand the genesis of Fally Ipupa's indisputable talent. The journey started in the Democratic Republic of The Congo; largely recognized as Africa's birthplace of music with legends such as Franco, Tabu Ley Rocherau, Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide. In the 70's under Mobutu Sese Seko and during their cultural revolution, urban music was a vehicle for politicians and also a time where there was a rise in the number of youth as musicians.

It's against this backdrop that Fally Ipupa born on December 14th 1977 grew up. It was a large musical family, some of whom sang at church and where he also began singing. His musical journey continued when as an adolescent, his vocal prowess attracted attention, and, in the late 1990s a meeting with Congolese legend Koffi Olomide saw him join Qartier Latin International, which was founded by Olomide as Chef d'Orchestre or conductor of the orchestra.

"My parents wanted me to study medicine, but the pull towards music was too strong. I realized then that music was my first love and I couldn't live without it."

Ipupa is in the middle of a media blitz at the hotel just a few hours ahead of his show. His professionalism stands out as he goes through a two and a half hour interview run with characteristic francophone charm, ensuring that all media houses got what they wanted from him. Whether it was taking selfies, answering questions or re-recording personalized drops, the mega star showed no signs of fatigue and even sung bits from some of his songs on request. Members of the press gushed at his humility despite his stature as an African superstar, something that caught most of them - even the more seasoned ones, completely off guard.

Fally Ipupa stands out in The Democratic Republic of Congo for the right reasons. The country, which has had its fair share of tragedies, celebrates him as their National Pride. While many would rest on these laurels, he's using his stature as a superstar to give back to the less fortunate in society. His philanthropic gesture has seen him open up The Fally Ipupa Foundation (FIF).

The foundation's role is to give back to people who've suffered the ravages of war, calamities, as well as illness and ensure they have good quality of life - making sure the more vulnerable in society are taken care of. He talks about his foundation passionately, and the need to give back. It's a rare moment, where he shows a very human side despite his mega stardom.

While most artists choose to seclude themselves ahead of their shows; Fally proved that he's in a different league. Sitting at the middle of the table and flanked by his team, he had a leisurely lunch. Conversation was light, engaging and while he seemed tucked away in thought, the scene was reminiscent of Louis XIV, known as The Sun King who walked around with a huge entourage. He was, quite naturally, the centre of attention, a momentary calm before the impending storm at the Koroga Festival.

The Fally Effect

The holding area backstage was calm. Fally was seated with just his security and assistant manager Souleymane Kahuka. Adjacent to his tent, his band were getting ready. Meanwhile on stage, the final act was finalizing their set to the growing impatience of the crowd. Screams of Fally! Fally! punctuate the crowd. Finally, they seemed to calm down as the final change-over was being done. The DJ's of the day played some music during the intermission and a loud cheer emanated from the crowd as Fally's full band dressed in white took to the stage to set up. As they tuned their instruments, what started off as a hum turned into cheer as the music began to take shape. It was during this moment that a voice from beyond the stage was heard:

Nairobi, est ce que ca va?

Nairobi est ce que ca va?

Those french greetings threw the crowd into a wild frenzy, which erupted into a deafening scream when Fally, took to the stage with his infectious track "Tout Le Monde Danse."

Fally was majestic, like a lion out on the hunt as he went through his set; owning the stage and working the crowd, the loud sounds of women screaming could be heard, while the gentlemen in attendance enjoyed his captivating performance.

Fally treated revelers to tracks from his 4th studio album entitled "Tokooss", such as "Jeudi Soir" and mixed it up with "Original, Sweet Life and Hustler," among his other hits. The crowd was completely whipped into a frenzy with the combination of energetic dancing, lively music and the pulsating beat of the African drums combined with the continuous blow of the whistle that climaxed in a sort of musical ecstasy experienced at the Carnivore grounds. The audience loved it when Fally, after a brief intermission, returned to stage in full traditional gear, to perform his track Eloko Oyo, which he has since won an Afrimma Award for. He paused during his set and received a personalized Maasai blanket, which he continued to perform in as he received more friends and fans on stage during his performance.

It was my first time attending such a large show in Kenya; what was interesting was how enthusiastically the crowd sang along to Fally's music despite it being in French or Lingala. The event was very well organized and we were very well treated. Souleymane Kahuka, Assistant Manager

The screams and singing were so loud, but Fally's velvety voice stood out and like any great concert, a sense of camaraderie developed as thousands of people congregated to watch the Congolese Star at his best. Three hours after he got on stage, Fally thanked the crowd who were sad to see him go but were completely satiated after the experience.

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