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Awilo Longomba
Awilo Longomba, 2023.jpg
Awilo Longomba, May 2023
Background information
Birth name Louis Albert William Longomba
Born (1962-05-05) 5 May 1962 (age 61)
Origin Kinshasa, Republic of the Congo
(modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Genres Techno-soukous
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • dancer
  • composer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • drummer
  • media personality
Years active 1980s—present
Associated acts Viva la Musica

Louis Albert William Longomba (born May 5, 1962), known professionally as Awilo Longomba, is a Congolese soukous singer, composer, drummer, songwriter, dancer, and producer. The second child of Vicky Longomba and maternal uncle of French player Claude Makélélé, Longomba is known for his avant-garde "techno-soukous" and performances.

Between 1980 and 1995, he made his music debut as a drummer for Viva La Musica, Stukas, Nouvelle Génération, and Loketo. He rose to fame in 1995 with the release of his debut solo studio album Moto Pamba, which catapulted him to stardom in Africa and Europe. The album's success won him two consecutive Best Artist of Central Africa at the 1996 and 1997 Kora Awards. In 1998, he released his second studio album Coupé Bibamba. The album's eponymous lead single, featuring Jocelyne Béroard, topped charts in Africa, Europe, and the Americas for consecutive weeks and is venerable as Africa's most serenaded Lingala songs. He became the first artist to sell-out the Lagos Stadium for three consecutive days. The song was later featured in the "World Tribute to the Funk" compilation by Sony Music, featuring a new funk remix version with James D-Train Williams. The remix became a summer hit and was later translated into Nigerian local languages and performed in churches. The song also gained popularity in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Malawi, and had a significant impact on the local culture.

Longomba is the first Congolese artist to have performed in São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as the only Sub-Saharan African, along with Miriam Makeba, to have performed in Libya. His third studio album Kafou Kafou, released in July 2000, later won him the Judges' Special Awards at the 2001 Kora Awards for his contribution to African music. He is also one of Africa and Europe's "most wanted" Congolese artists.

Early life and career

Awilo Longomba et Viva La Musica en 1986, Japon
Awilo Longomba (middle) during his EuroAsia tours as a member of Papa Wemba's band Viva La Musica in 1986. They gave four concerts in Tokyo and one in Osaka

Awilo Longomba was born as Louis Albert William Longomba on May 5, 1962, in Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville) to a Mongo father and a Ngombe mother from Équateur Province. His father, Vicky Longomba, was the lead vocalist and founder of Tout Puissant OK Jazz. His sister, Asta Paola, was Viva la Musica's female vocalist. As a child, Longomba spent every moment around music, frequently attending his father's rehearsals. His father, influenced by his perception of contemporary musicians as dissolute figures, often clothed himself in sartorial splendor and ardently discouraged his son from pursuing a career in music. Logomba's passion for music burgeoned exponentially, leading him to veer from formal pedagogy and become a drummer for various musical groups in Kinshasa, including "Orchestre de Lita Bembo." He later joined Viva La Musica, led by Papa Wemba as a drummer, and toured with Afro-zouk crooner Olivier N'Goma in 1985.

Papa Wemba et les membres de Viva La Musica, dont Awilo Longomba, au Japon en 1986
Viva La Musica during their Euro-Asia tours in 1986 in Tokyo, Japan

In 1986, as part of their EuroAsia tours, Longomba and Viva La Musica toured Matonge, a culturally rich neighborhood known for its Congolese influences, to record their album Destin ya Moto in Gina Efonge's bar. There, his stature as an exceptional drummer within the group gained momentum. In 1989, he permanently relocated to Paris and applied for his Carte de Séjour. In Paris, he encountered discriminatory attitudes against African immigrants and grew resentful of the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen's movement, which underscored the prevalence of racism in France, particularly within political parties like the National Front. Though not as high-profile as Ray Lema, he had settled into a life as a Parisian and had formed a personal attachment to the city. In 1992, Longomba left Viva La Musica and formed his musical ensemble, La Nouvelle Génération, of which he became the leader, alongside members Luciana Demingongo, Lidjo Kwempa, Fataki Ndoko José, and Fafa de Molokaï. The newly established band rapidly gained popularity within the precincts of Europe and produced several albums. He collaborated on numerous records in France and toured globally with renowned African artists such as Tshala Muana, Oliver N'Goma, and Kanda Bongo Man. He became a French citizen in 1994, having married a French woman.

1995–1998: Moto Pamba

In 1995, he left La Nouvelle Génération and went on to release his debut solo studio album Moto Pamba later that same year. He served as the album's composer, lead singer, and drummer, with support from Shimita, Ballou Canta, Dindo Yogo, Dally Kimoko, Sam Mangwana, Syran Mbenza and Rigo Star. The album was a great success and led to tours across Africa and Europe. In 1996, he promoted the album through a live show at Parc de la Villette and later won the Best Artist of Central Africa at the Kora Awards. He received the same accolade on October 1, 1997.

1998–2000: Coupé Bibamba

Awilo Longomba et Samuel Eto'o
Awilo Longomba and Samuel Eto'o in Paris

In 1998, he released his second studio album Coupé Bibamba, which was supported by the singles "Gaté Le Coin", "Mobimba Ya Mama", "Coupé Bibamba", "Manon", "Porokondo", "Sans Papier", "J'en Ai Marre", "Fifi", "J'en Ai Marre", and "Gâté Le Coin [Bonus Mix]"; and featured guest appearances by Jocelyne Béroard, Tutu Kaludji and Alain Mpéla Yoka. The album's eponymous single, "Coupe Bibamba," featuring Jocelyne Béroard, became a massive hit in Africa and Europe, as well as among diaspora communities worldwide, and remains a timeless classic in African music. Longomba's three consecutive sold-out shows at Lagos Stadium, each attended by 120,000 fans, solidified his superstar status across West Africa. "Coupé Bibamba" is a Congolese phrase loosely translated to "waist movement." The song is an energetic celebration of African dance and rhythm, blending traditional Congolese ndombolo dance music with modern elements. The song's music video featuring Longomba's electrifying choreographic prowess metamorphosed into a cultural phenomenon and introduced a new generation of music, leaving a massive impact on several African musicians. The song was adapted into local languages by indigenous artists in Nigeria. The lyrical incantations, encapsulated by the refrain "Comment t'appelle? Je m'appelle Coupe Coupe Bibamba," have been embraced by non-French-speaking fans and given meanings in their native Yoruba language, widely spoken in the Southwestern and Central Nigeria, and the Pidgin English spoken generally in Nigeria and West Africa.

The track "Manon" is dedicated to his daughter of the same name, while "Porokondo" emphasizes humility in both difficult and prosperous times. In the song, he included a mabanga, a practice where musicians "shout out" an individual's name during a song for a fee, directed at Robert Ogwal, also known as Rasta Rob, one of the most popular radio presenters in the African Great Lakes Region at the time.

2000–2002: Kafou Kafou and "Coupé Bibamba" funk remix

Awilo Longomba, Jocelyn Brown, et Anita Ward, 2001
Awilo Longomba, Anita Ward, and Jocelyn Brown backstage Zénith de Paris in 2001, during their 'Tribute To The Funk' show

In July 2000, Longomba released his third studio album, Kafou Kafou. It later earned him the Jury Special Award at the 2001 Kora Awards, which he offered to Nelson Mandela at Sun City. During an interview with Foster Romanus on The Late Nite Celebrity Show, he expressed that having Nelson Mandela in attendance was a substantial gain in itself, due to his respect and appreciation for Mandela's impactful contributions to Africa.

Towards the end of the year, Sony Music requested a funk remix of his hit "Coupé Bibamba" with James D-Train Williams, which gained popularity in France and the US. It was also featured in the "African Dance Floor" compilation, and Longomba later performed at Zénith de Paris alongside Jocelyn Lorette Brown, Oliver Cheatham, Jerome Prister, Imagination and Anita Ward, who were part of the compilation.

2003–June 2008:Mondongo, Africa Live mega-concert and African tours

In September 2003, he released his fourth studio album, Mondongo, featuring hit singles like "Karolina", "Zumbeya", "Mupenzi", "Pinzoli", "Gladys", "Kayembe", "Mondongo", "Champion", "Mia Muliere", and "Dance Floor". The album blended Congolese rumba, soukous, R&B, and Kompa with the collaboration of other African artists, including Lokua Kanza. Mondongo garnered widespread recognition in several African nations and sold over 30,000 copies in France. The album's lead single "Karolina" became a staple at hall parties and the most-played song at African gatherings. In the song, Longomba eloquently expresses his admiration for his muse, Karolina, declaring her pulchritude from every angle – from head to toe, front, and back. To support his album, he embarked on a tour in Cameroon, with performances scheduled at Cinéma Le Wouri, Stade Mbappé Léppé, Cinéma Abbia, and Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium. In November 2004, he received a nomination for his song "Karolina" at the 2004 Kora Awards held in Johannesburg.

In March 2005, he took the stage at the Africa Live 2005 mega-concert, a malaria-fighting event held at the Iba-Mar-Diop Stadium, where he performed in front of a crowd of 40,000 people. His co-performers included Youssou N'Dour, Orchestra Baobab, Tinariwen, Didier Awadi, Corneille, Salif Keita, Rokia Traoré, Manu Dibango, and Seun Kuti. The event was organized by Youssou N'Dour as part of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), an initiative launched in 1998 by the WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, and the World Bank. The festival's message was disseminated through approximately forty television stations, with about ten television channels, including Arte and TV5Monde.

To promote his album, he toured Africa and performed in several cities, including Libreville (July 2006), Sumbe (September 29-30, 2006), Abidjan (2007), and Antananarivo (June 2008).

August 2008–2017: Superman and standalone releases

In August 2008, he released his fifth studio album Superman, which contained standout tracks like "Super Man", "Torticolis", "Les Jaloux", "Malala", "Maze", "Meu Amor", "Banana", "La Go Là", "Baby", "J’Ai Envie de Toi", "BK", and "Banana Remix". Barbara Kanam also made a guest appearance on the album. He subsequently took the stage at Zénith de Paris on December 27, 2009, to promote the album. He later performed in Antananarivo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Malagasy Independence on June 26, 2010.

In 2014, Longomba collaborated with the Nigerian duo P-Square on the track "Enemy Solo." On January 23, 2017, he released a single titled "Rihanna" featuring Nigerian singer Yemi Alade.

International recognition

Longomba is among the most sought-after Congolese artists in Africa and Europe. He has toured extensively throughout Africa, including countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Zambia, Namibia, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Seychelles, Malawi, Sudan, South Africa, and Mali, among others. He has also performed in Europe, notably in Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, France, the UK, and Germany, as well as Japan, Australia, Malaysia, and the United States.

In February 2023, Nigerian singer Ayra Starr released her soukous-inspired single "Sability," which sample Longomba's "Coupé Bibamba".

Famous songs

  • Karolina
  • Coupe Bibamba
  • Rosalina (Karolina Remix)
  • Mondongo
  • Fidele

Discography

Albums

  • Moto Pamba (1995)
  • Coupe Bibamba (1999)
  • Kafou Kafou (2001)
  • Mondongo (2003)
  • Super-Man (2008)
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