By Jerome Ogola
This is one of FAQ on social media everywhere, within rumba forums and other non music related pages and sites. Today satisfactorily understand the two musicians, I will give a brief history of the two
Franco was born in Sona Bata, but they relocated to Ngiri Ngiri, in the outskirts of Kinshasa. Having lost a father, his mother baked “kaimati” to fend for the family. It is in the streets of Ngiri Ngiri that Franco began his music with a self made three stringed guitar. In 1952 his talent was noted by Dewayon who took him in his band Watam, a band which signed for Loningisa record label in 1953, while aged only 15
Franco exceptional mastery of the guitar was a mystery and mesmerized everyone. In the same year he participated in several recordings among them his compositions. It is in this record label that he and others created the mighty OK Jazz which for year did more than 1300 songs, with approximately 65% of the entire catalogue being his own compositions
In a nutshell he was a band leader, composer, singer, and guitarist. First he is a guitarist and that is what made him a musician because his voice is hardly audible in any of his songs until latee in the 1950s. Madilu on the other hand was vocalist with Bakuba Mayopi, Maquisards and Afrisa, before joining OKJ in 1980
He only composed two songs, “boma ngai” and “pesa positions”, but participated in several dozens recording as a singer. His contribution to the music world remain as a composer and a singer. Later he left OKJ and embarked on a solo career that saw him record several albums, featuring a “nzong nzing”.
This is a term that refers to a makeshift band quickly constituted specifically for a given recording or live concert, and no as we know the tradition of bands. He worked with Dally Kimoko, Cian Madoka, Lokasa Ya Mbongo, Nyoboma Mwandido, Rigo star etc
Back to the question: When you ask who was greater between Madilu and Franco, what are the parameters of comparison? As singers? Composers? Guitarists? Band leaders?
By this I mean Franco would still be a musical legend had he not opened his mouth even once to sing. He would be a musician courtesy of his guitar skills! Of the roles Franco did his guitar skills and composing prowess remain outstanding
The songs which Madilu made a name, Mario, Mamou, Non are all Franco compositions. Those who understand music will tell you there is a rigorous process a song goes through from the skeleton at composition stage until when it is being recorded and the input of the composer/arranger/ guitarist cannot all be ignored only for a vocalist who came when it is ready to be credited
This arguments are based on ignorance. Even if I am to seek an opinion of 10 top musicians from Congo, they will tell you Franco has no comparison anywhere, let alone from his own band. Madilu only joined OKJ in 1980, when the band had been alive for 25 years! It is practically impossible to compare the two, unless you narrow the question to who was a better vocalist between the two, and here you will be let to go witg the crime of settling on Madilu because there isn’t any “voicemeter” to scientifically gauge whose voice is great and that makes the question more of an opinion question
Why Madilu of all OKJ members? Why not compare Franco and say Vicky Longomba who composed more than 70 songs with the band and even went ahead to create his own band Lovy Du Zaire, after quiting OKJ in 1971? Why not Youlou or any other musician?
Appreciate Madilu as a singer but detest from comparing him to Franco, a man whom books and volumes have been written about him, a man who the government announced official morning for three days, a man whose death was the headline of Kenyan newspapers, a musician who visited Tanzania and travelled around in the president’s limousine complete witg the coat of arms