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The Passing of Congolese Rumba Giant Verckys Kiamuangana

Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta Georges was born in Kisantu on May 19th, 1944 in the province of Central Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was the owner of a recording studio/label (Veve Edition) and a Congolese saxophonist. Verckys first introduced himself as a member of the famous band TPOK Jazz. While still a teenager, he made his professional debut in Paul “Dewayon” Ebengo’s Conga Jazz, and then moved on to TPOK Jazz in 1961. His volatile solos, though not usually credited on records set the band’s mid-60s period apart and earned Verckys the “man with steel lungs”.

Verckys’ contributions generally considered to be his own included the solos of “Polo”, “Bolingo ya Bougie” and “Ngai Marie Nzoto Ebeba”. He also wrote one of the best-known songs by the group “Oh Madame De la Maison” (Mrs of the House). Β In 1969, Verckys left TPOK Jazz to form his own orchestra band VΓ©vΓ©. The group included promising singers Matadidi “Mario” Mabele, Marcel “Djeskain” Loko and Bonghat “Sinatra” Tshekabu, who would form the very popular Madjesi Trio a few years later. The orchestra VΓ©vΓ© recorded a vast body of works in the early 70s, including Verckys composition “Nakomitunaka” (I wonder) from 1972, one of the best-known songs in Congolese music. “Nakomitunaka” was Verckys rather bitter response to the Catholic Church’s opposition to Congo-Kinshasa (Zaire) President Mobutu’s authenticity campaign. Once Orchestra VΓ©vΓ© launched successfully, Verckys began to diversify into other areas of the company. He signed to established bands including Les Grands Maquisards and Bella Bella to his new label VΓ©vΓ© and helped others such as Empire Bakuba and Lipua Lipua get started.

Verckys opened the most modern recording studio in Kinshasa in 1972 and an elaborate venue and entertainment complex called Centre VΓ©vΓ© in 1978. He also served a term as president of the Union of Musicians (UMUZA) succeeding Franco in late 1978. Increasingly busier with commercial activities, Verckys finds less and less time to perform and his Orchestra VΓ©vΓ© was slowly disintegrating. In the 80’s, Verckys helped start younger generation bands including Langa Langa Stars, Victoria Eleison and Anti Shock. He opened a record pressing factory in Kinshasa in 1984, but pirate tapes and the collapse of the country’s economy had already broken the market domination, making the company a failure. Verckys laid the foundation of an ultimately fruitless political career in the early 90s, when it briefly appeared that democracy could take root in Congo-Kinshasa. He continued to operate his recording studio, although most of the established musicians have left the devastated country.

Verckys was an extremely talented musician and leader who made a substantial contribution to Congolese rumba. Verckys died on the afternoon of 13th October 2022.

African Rhythms Radio on Spotify is paying tribute to Verckys all week with some Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba. Don’t forget to subscribe to African Rhythms Radio on Spotify while you listen.

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