Aurlus Mabélé dies aged 67, leaves rich soukous legacy.
Nairobi. Congolese Soukous music star Aurlus Mabélé, who was synonymous with the name of his group, Loketo, is dead. The Paris-based singer, band leader and flamboyant dancer, who has been ailing for several years, succumbed to the coronavirus panepidemic on Thursday.
News of his death plunged the fans of soukous music worldwide into mourning, as they remembered a star who gave them infectiously danceable hits that reverberated across the continent and were also well-received in Europe and in the American diaspora, where African music is treasured.
The flamboyant Aurlus Mabele, who came from Congo-Brazzaville, was among the biggest proponents of the fast-paced and sharp guitar lines-laced Soukous music, had been battling with cancer for a long time. The illness had silenced one of the most popular figures from the smaller Congo to grace the African music scene, towering among the giants from across the river in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The others include Prince Youlou Mabiala, who honed his singing skills at the feet of the grandmaster of Congolese Lingala music, Franco (Luambo Luanzo Makiadi).
The 67-year-old Aurlus, who suffered a stroke several years ago, died at a Paris hospital on Thursday.
Reports indicated that he died of Covid-19, which is currently raging worldwide, with heavy casualties in Europe after breaking out in China, there was no confirmation as to whether the viral infection might have worsened Aurlus’s condition, resulting in death.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation on Friday morning, veteran Paris-based Congolese singer and composer Nyboma Mwandido said he had been informed by a family member that Aurlus Mabele had died after a Covid-19 attack.
“We are liaising with family members for details of the funeral arrangements and more information from the hospital on his final days,” he added.
Nyboma is among the leaders of a France and Belgium-based forum catering for Congolese musicians living in Europe.
Aurlus, famed for his vibrant and exciting stage shows, was among the founders of the Loketo Band in the late 1980s alongside solo guitar wizard Diblo Dibala, bass guitarist Remy Sahlomon, and singers Lucien Bokilo and Jean Baron.
Some of their most popular songs include, Extra Ball, Douce Isabella and Choc a Distance.
The star-studded group, which performed to huge audiences across Africa and Europe, also featured burly drummer and dancer Marc Macaire.
The fast-tempo Soukous dance beat was modelled on Loketo, meaning ‘hips’ in Lingala, and revolved around fast-gyrating of the hips to the fast-paced beats and sharp vocals.
Diblo, who had earlie backed Kanda Bongoman on recordings, left the Loketo group to form his own group, Orch Matchacha, in 1990, producing songs such as “Boum Tonnerre” and “Laisezz Passer”.
Jean Baron known for the hit song, Malo, later died, while Lucien Bokilo, is today a solo musician based in the USA.
Kenyan fans got a chance to watch Aurlus perform when he toured Kenyan in 1991 backed by his then new solo guitarist, Dally Kimoko, Jean Baron and then drummer Awilo Longomba. Some of the popular songs featuring Dally on the solo guitar include ‘Embargo” and “Evelyne”.
Nairobi-based Lingala music fan Sammy Wamuri (Ya Kembo), who attended all Aurlus Mabele shows in Nairobi, was stunned to learn of his death.