Popular music plays an important role in Sapin Makengele’s drawing on the Congo Crisis. The drawing depicts two musicians: American jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, who visited Congo in the 1960s, and Congolese guitarist and singer Franco. Both are highlighted by the orange frames that surround them. The top left of the drawing represents one of the most famous songs of Congo. L’African Jazz’s Indépendance Cha Cha (1960) was composed in Brussels, during the Round Table Conference that discussed Congo’s imminent independence. Its lyrics evince the optimism of the moment:

Independance Cha-cha to zuwi ye!
Oh Kimpwanza cha-cha tubakidi
Oh Table Ronde cha-cha ba gagner oh!
Oh Lipanda cha-cha tozuwi ye!


Bolikango, Kasavubu mpe Lumumba na Kalondji
Bolya, Tshombe, Kamitatu, oh Essandja, Mbuta Kanza.

The politicians here presented as allies would soon be adversaries. The musical scene itself would also be affected by the Congo Crisis and its political outcome. Mobutu, who would be president of Congo from 1965 to 1997, implemented a programme which should unite the Congo and which should nullify the cultural effects of Western imperialism. In this programme of authenticité(or Zairianisation), Mobutu mobilised musicians to propagate a single Congolese identity.

In this series of blog posts, we examine the relation between popular music and the Congo Crisis. Our aim is to show the role music played in the aftermath of the Congo Crisis, especially in Mobutu’s programme of authenticité, and to show how the music itself reflected on events or individuals that were important during the Congo Crisis. The research for this project will be presented through two different sections. The first of those two section will function as the necessary historiographical premise needed to understand the historical, political and social conditions that contributed to the development of the musical reality that it is discussed here. The second section analyses two different song by Franco. The first one is from the second half of the 1960s, whereas the second song is from 1984. We hope to show how Mobutu is praised in the lyrics of Franco’s songs and how this evolved over time. As such, we aim to show how the music itself connects to politics. We conclude with a reflection on the production of history and on what tasks lay ahead when dealing with Congolese popular music.

Section I

  1. The Setting: A Short Premise
  2. Music as Social Ladder and Musicians to be Used as Stepping Stones
  3. “To throw a stone”, or Kabwaka Libanga
  4. Animation Politique et Culturelle: Mobutu’s Use of Music in Propaganda
  5. Franco: A Musician in Service of Mobutu?
  6. Zaire ‘74

Section II

  1. Appropriating the Legacy of Lumumba in “Lumumba, Héros National” (1967)
  2. “Our candidate is Mobutu”: Propaganda in Candidat na biso Mobutu (1984)

Conclusion & Reflection