Meet Lokua Kanza, the music maestro

If you have seen his face more than once either in one of his shows in Rwanda or else where in the world, now you know who he is --meet one of Africa’s best known musicians Pascal Lokua Kanza.
Pascal Lokua Kanza. Net photo.
Pascal Lokua Kanza. Net photo.

If you have seen his face more than once either in one of his shows in Rwanda or else where in the world, now you know who he is --meet one of Africa’s best known musicians Pascal Lokua Kanza.

Lokua is a very talented singer-songwriter with a distinct style of music, mainly coloured by his high-pitched voice. Having sung in church as a boy, he studied classical guitar at the Kinshasa conservatory.

Even before his debut album came out, Lokua’s notoriety had spread well beyond the already wide circle of African music spheres. His soft, melancholy acoustic music has swept away the current clichés regarding the Congolese music, with its rumba and diabolical Soukouss rhythms.

Lokua was born in April 1958 in Bukavu, eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaïre), to a Congolese father and Rwandan mother. He is the eldest of eight children.

Africa-Europe

As an adolescent, Lokua took up the guitar and joined several rumba bands. As he grew up he became interested in traditional music and joined the Kinshasa conservatoire of music. His talent was recognised when in 1980, at the age of 22, he joined the band of the diva, Abeti, the superstar of Zaire. This experience taught him a lot and Lokua was then able to join the vast African music world fully fledged.

In 1981, Lokua moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. After working as a guitarist, he became a singer in the Best Orchestra at the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan.

For Lokua, it was an excellent learning period, but his true ambition was to work in Europe, especially France. He achieved this in 1984.

In 1984, he went to Paris, where he worked with big names in African music, such as Papa Wemba, Manu Dibango, Ray Lema, and Angelique Kidjo. In the 1990s, he started a career as a solo singer, accompanying himself on guitar and percussion. He performs with the Senegalese Julia Sarr (vocals) and Didi Ekukuan (percussion and vocals).

Rewards and Tours

In February 1996, France honoured Lokua, with three nominations at the Victoires de la Musique. Unfortunately, none of the prizes went to him, but it did not really matter. The audiences continued to crowd into his concerts on his long international tour through Africa and then Europe.

On July 13, the Francofolies Festival at La Rochelle organised “la Fête à Lokua”, an evening of music in honour of the young artiste, with many African artistes such as Youssou N’Dour and Papa Wemba. And he was then welcomed at the prestigious Montreux Festival.

Lokua around the world

In 1997 and 98, Lokua Kanza spent most of his time on tour, commencing with the United States where he gave concerts early in the year. In April, the Brazilian Djavan invited him and Al Jarreau to the Festival of Todos os Sons (Festival of all sounds) in Curitiba, Brazil.

Then he gave a concert for immigrants without papers (another name for clandestine immigrants seeking official recognition, with the assistance of many artists) at the Espace Austerlitz in Paris on June 7.

On June 1st 1998, Lokua took part in the Africa Festival at Wirtzbourg, Bavaria.

Lokua sings in Lingala and Swahili as well as in English and French. His focuses on historical themes than modern-day subjects.

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