Simaro Lutumba’s son, manager confirm ‘Le Poète’ will be in Kampala

MUSIC | Congolese rumba grand master Simaro Massiya Lutumba will headline the Bana OK concert in Kampala on November 30, his son and manager have confirmed.

Simaro, nicknamed Le Poète (The Poet) by rumba fans for his genius with lyrical verses, is expected in Kampala that will help raise funds for construction of a patient waiting area and information centre at Uganda Cancer Institute.

Rumba fan Dr John Bahana turned promoter for the concert that is being organised by the Nabasirye Bahana Cancer Foundation in conjunction with Uganda Cancer Society, Winner’s Media and Aura Signature Events.

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But even as tickets went on sale last week, a section of doubting members of the public held that Simaro Lutumba would not be able to make the Kampala trip.

Simaro clocked 80 on March 19 and retired from professional music life on his birthday at a ceremony graced by President Joseph Kabila.

Ending his 63 years in music, Simaro handed his music instruments to Kabila as a symbolic gesture of his retirement from professional performance.

Partly due to the age factor or for some confusion, some rumours surfaced that Simaro was ill and confined to a wheelchair, meaning he would not make it to Kampala on November 30. But Salomon Lutumba, his son, refuted the allegations.

“He is not on wheelchair. You know he is 80 years old now, and at such age, you get a bit of health problems, but he will do his best to be there [in Kampala] to honour his fans,” Salomon said.

During his birthday ceremony, Simaro said the only health-related issue he has is with his feet, that he said pain from time to time. He placed the pain to standing for long hours during his professional music career.

With advanced age, Simaro would like come but not perform much. His role would be leadership as he remains the leader of Bana OK.

Simaro’s manager Willy Tafar, responding to a question which musicians from Bana OK would be in Kampala, said they still had a few loose ends of the thread to tie before finalising the entourage.

“Let me finish our negotiations and then I’ll tell you what about the poet, but he’ll be with you,” Tafar said.

Simaro Lutumba is a celebrated rumba composer, rhythm guitarist and arranger who spent his prime as Franco Luambo Makiadi’s second in command at TPOK Jazz, at one point being the leader of Kinshasa (African) wing of the band when it had grown too big to fit as a single unit.

At the time, Franco took a section of the band with him to Europe where he spent about six years releasing on average seven albums a year.

After Franco’s death on October 12, 1989, Simaro took over TPOK Jazz leadership, overseeing releases such as Ofela, Hommage au Franco Luambo, Diarrhée verbale, and Somo, as well as tours to Kenya, Tanzania and Europe.

However, four years later, Mama Annie (Franco’s second wife) and other senior TPOK Jazz members such as Djo Mpoyi, Lola Checain, Bosuma Dessouin, and Aimé Kiwakana Mongo were no more, yet bickering for royalties between Franco’s family and the musicians intensified and reached a boiling point in December 1993.

Simaro had to make the painful decision later that month. A meeting among the musicians who were no happy with the 70-30 revenue sharing with Franco’s family reached a resolution to break away.

A day later, at Zenith Bar in Kinshasa, Simaro looked into the cameras of RTNC (Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise) and announced his resignation as the band leader.

TPOK that had survived from 1956 to 1993 was dead.

On 30 January 1994, the orchestra Bana OK (The children of Orchestra of Kinshasa) was founded under the leadership of Simaro Lutumba, with deputies Josky Kiambukuta and Ndombe Opetum.

Ndombe Opetum passed on in May 2012 but Josky lives in Belgium and is confined to wheelchair. It is perhaps the Josky health that a section of rumba followers have confused with that of Simaro Lutumba.

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