Even though the relationship between Cuban music and the two Congos merits a whole book of its own, no guide to the subject would be complete without a mention of the Grand Maitre Franco, the guitarist who helped develop Afro Cuban music into what is now known as Sokous. Already one of Zaire’s biggest stars, under the Mobutu dictatorship Franco continued to Africanize Afro-Cuban rumba by introducing more traditional Congolese elements, in line with Mobutu’s authenticitè movement. Franco was incredibly prolific, and it is estimated that he released between 80 and 150 with his band OK (and later TPOK) Jazz. Originalite: The First Recordings of This Legendary Band (1956-57) is a fantastic compilation of Franco’s early recordings, replete with Spanish and Lingala lyrics and typically Cuban-son rhythmic guitars.

Megan Iacobini de Fazio