Tabu Ley “Seigneur Rochereau” (1940-2013)

Original releases

Tabu Ley “Seigneur Rochereau” started his recording career as a vocalist with Joseph Kabasele’s African Jazz in 1959. The earliest recordings with African Jazz were released on the Esengo and Surboum African Jazz labels. In 1963 most of the band-members defected and formed African Fiesta with Tabu Ley as lead vocalist and “Dr. Nico” Kasanda wa Mikalay on solo guitar as joint band-leaders. Some 115  45 rpm vinyl single discs with African Fiesta were released from 1962 to 1965 on the Vita label before the band broke up and split into two formations, African Fiesta Sukisa lead by Dr. Nico and African Fiesta “66” – soon renamed African Fiesta National – lead by Tabu Ley.

The 45 rpm vinyl singles with African Fiesta National were initially released on the Flash label. In 1969 Tabu Lay established his own organization International Service Artistic (ISA) and a label of the same name.  Subsequently the band’s name was changed to Afrisa – a combination of African and ISA. The recordings released on the Vita, Flash and ISA labels were re-released in France by the Ngoma label and above all by Fonior / Decca France on the Decca and African labels. When Fonior / Decca France was declared bankrupt in 1980 it left Tabu Ley without an international distributor. A deal was made with Daniel Cuxac, director of the Disco Stock label in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to release a series of albums for international distribution based on 45 rpm ISA singles released in Congo 1978-1982. This in turn led to a re-structuring of ISA into a new company and label Genidia which handled Tabu Ley and Afrisa’s recordings throughout the 1980s including his collaboration with Mbilia Bel. The Genidia label also marked a change in format for new releases from the 45 rpm single play record to the vinyl album.  All previous albums released by NgomaFonior / Decca France and later by SonoDisc had been compilations based on singles previously released in Congo.

In the early 1990s Tabu Ley went to live in the USA and the era of African Fiesta National and Afrisa came to an end. Tabu Ley recorded several solo albums before he returned to Congo in 1997 and pursued a political career as cabinet minister in the government of President Laurent Kabila and later as Vice-Governor in charge of political, administrative, and socio-cultural questions, for the city of Kinshasa. His musical career took a new turn in the 2000s when he recorded a string of playback music videos based on his past hits.

In later years Tabu Ley suffered from a stroke in 2008. He died on 30th November 2013 at the age of 73.

Interview in French with Tabu Ley from 2005 how he began his musical career
Jump to 2:13 to avoid intro – Obs. interview repeated from 6:55

Page created 17/11/2012 © Flemming Harrev- latest update 23/07/2015