The World's Marco Werman tells us about Pascal Tabou. He's best known as Tabu Ley.
And back in grade school, he was the only one in the classroom who could name one of the heroes of the Franco-Prussian war -- Colonel Pierre Denfert-Rochereau. And from that day forward, the name Tabu Ley Rochereau stuck. His voice would too.
In the late 50s, the number one bandleader in Leopoldville wrote and produced Tabu Ley Rochereau's first hit. Just hearing Tabu Ley's silky introduction you immediately get his appeal.
"Tabu Ley Rochereau: The Voice of Lightness" is a new two-CD collection that's just come out. It features Tabu Ley's biggest songs from the early 60s through the mid-70s. It's a treasure for those who know Tabu Ley's music. For those who don't know him, these 29 songs are a perfect introduction.
They're also a snapshot of African pop music when the instrumentation was more modest than it tends to be today. And the lyrics in most of the songs Tabu Ley composed himself, often had the pensive quality of Marvin Gaye's music. Take Tabu Ley's first song he recorded with his band African Fiesta 66.
"Mokolo Nakokufa" may have been the first dance song that Congolese didn't instantly get up and dance to, but rather listened to and contemplated. Mokolo Nakokufa means the day I die. Tabu Ley wrote several verses, and in each one, the singer imagines his or her death.
One man sings, "Who will cry for me the day I die?" They're intense lyrics, saying things that had not been said in African pop music before. Tabu Ley Rochereau continued through the 70s and 80s as the hardest working-man in Congolese show business.
After dictator Mobutu Sese Seko died, Tabu Ley pared back his performing. And he began to serve a series of governmental posts, including vice-governor of Kinshasa. Tabu Ley says someday he will go back to music.
But until that happens, the songs on "The Voice of Lightness" will satisfy any urge to hear one of the great voices of African pop music.
For The World, I'm Marco Werman.