Arts, Culture & Media

Tabu Ley is the man who brought us Congolese soukous music

Tabu Ley Rochereau.jpg

Congolese singer Tabu Ley Rochereau performs on stage at Afrika Festival on June 28, 2003 in Hertme, Netherlands.


Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty

Singer Tabu Ley Rochereau of Congo — now the Democratic Republic of Congo — died Saturday, leaving behind a lifetime of music.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Tabu Ley, as he's often known, was one of the innovators of the Congolese rhythm called soukous.

A few years ago, a friend of mine and a guitarist, Chris McCarus, was on a personal mission to learn Congolese-style soukous guitar and meet the stars of soukous. And he ended up at the home of Tabu Ley, in a neighborhood in Kinshasa.

McCarus describes the house as having quite a bit of space, and there was a yard, which meant wealth.

Inside, Chris says there were adult kids and little kids. He couldn't tell where all the kids came from, so he asked someone how many children does Tabu Ley have? Someone in the family asked someone else, who then replied, "about 70."

"He had it all," McCarus said.

In addition to his children, McCarus says Tabu Ley left his musical mark in that "hundreds of singers around Africa wanted to be like him and still do."