Congo’s respected Tabu Ley Rochereau died in Brussels, Belgium on Saturday November 30. He had suffered a stroke in 2008, and his condition had deteriorated in recent days. Tabu Ley was one of a few performers that defined modern rumba, with hits such as “Adios Thethe” and “Mokolo nakokufa” (the day of my death).
In 1970 became the first African musician to perform at the famed Paris Olympia music hall. His success came from the blend of African and Cuban influences, as well as Ley’s distinctive style of singing.
Born in Bandundu in 1940, Rochereau picked up his unusual stage name from a history lesson in school. After singing in choirs, he joined the African Jazz band, led by Grand Kallé. From 1960, he went on to create a series of bands such as African Fiesta, African Fiesta66 and African Fiesta International. Despite taking the more “Congolese” name Tabu Ley like many Congolese performers, he fell foul of the authorities and went to live in the US and then settled in Belgium.
After the fall of Mobutu, he returned to Congo and was involved in politics. But after an accident confined him to a wheel chair, he returned to Belgium, where he died. His death is seen as the passing of the last of the pioneers of Congolese music.
Tabu Ley Rochereau recorded some 2,000 tracks some of which can be found under
Tabu Ley Rochereau on Amazon UK