Francophonic album cover

Franco , Orchestre T.P.O.K. Jazz

1953 - 1980
Stern's Africa

It’s impossible to estimate how many albums Franco and his band TPOK Jazz released over the years. He once claimed the number was 150, while other estimates come in at around 80 (although these probably don’t include collections of singles that were compiled for the Congolese market). This retrospective is a great insight into Franco’s music, life, and career: arranged chronologically, it includes the first rough recordings he made when he was only 15, such as the delicate “Esengo Ya Mokili”, on which Franco accompanies vocalist Paul Ebengo on a borrowed guitar; his Cuban-son period with lyrics in Lingala and Spanish; the expansion of his TPOK Jazz into a 14 piece, with the addition of reeds and brass; and Franco and TPOK’s zenith years, between the 70s and 80s, during which the by then large ensemble stretched each track out with long instrumental dance sections known as sebenes. With its mix of lesser known tracks and career defining hits, Francophonic, Vol. 1: 1953 - 1980 is an essential release. 

Megan Iacobini de Fazio

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