Kenya: It's Musical Deluge As Poet Simaro Turns 80

Lutumba Simaro

He may look frail, but one of Democratic Republic of Congo's leading musicians, Lutumba Simaro Massiya, popularly known as the poet, is not down and out.

The long-serving former vice-president of the legendary TPOK Jazz band that was founded and led by the grand master Franco Luambo Makiadi, is not about to hang up his guitar and quit writing new songs.

Simaro, who in later years led Bana OK, a group that was formed after a fall out with the family of their former boss following his death in 1989, is still as musically alert as ever . Simaro commands a big following in Africa and parts of Europe.

Next week, he will be marking his 80th birthday. And plans are are at an advanced stage to host a concert in Kinshasa.

Family members and fans are expected to mark the day on Monday then later on Friday at Lingwala in Kinshasa for fans and his fellow musicians.

Had his boss Franco been alive today, they would both be celebrating their 80th birthdays together next week.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation by telephone on Tuesday, Salomon Lutumba, Simaro's UK-based son, said he will fly to Kinshasa for the event. "We will mark his birthday next Monday and Friday it will be a party and a concert for both fans and musicians," he said.

Laura Lutumba, Simaro's daughter who lives in London, will also be in Kinshasa for the festivities.

Also expected is their mother Hellen Nkelani, who lives in Paris.

Salomon said his father's wish was to have celebrated his birthday in Kenya this year.

"His love for Kenya is great, considering the big following he has had, especially during his times with TP OK Jazz Band." Towards the end of last year, Salomon had been involved in arrangements to try and have his father visit Kenya.

"My father is willing to make a meet-the-fans tour with a Kenyan promoter," he said.

Simaro last visited Kenya for a performance tour in 1990 -- a year after Franco's death.

Then, he performed at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Nairobi, alongside mercurial singers Josky Kiambukuta, Madilu System and Pepe Ndombe Opetum.

A few months later, a spilt occurred with the band with, Simaro forming Bana OK with Pepe Ndombe, Josky and Makoso.

UK-based guitarist and composer Mose Fan Fan, also a former member of TPOK Jazz, confirmed that he had been in touch with some of Simaro's family members over arrangements for the birthday celebrations.

"Though I won't be able to attend, I am optimistic about the arrangements for Simaro's birthday will be exquisite he is among the greatest in the trade," he said.

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