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Love Madilu? 7 unexpected things about the late rhumba icon

By Winnie Mabel October 12th, 2023 3 min read

For many of his global fans, his voice was a balm to stressful days, the spring in their steps and the tune that turned their souls.

Madilu System could belt out a tune regardless of whether he was singing about love, gossiping about neighbors, marriage, and infidelity.

For many, a day would not pass without either waking up or winding down a day without listening to his music.

Favorites include Ya Jean, Magali, Vieux Samy, RTC Riva, Maguy, Faute ya Commercant, Nzele, and France de mi amor, among tens of others.

Also read: Les Wanyika making Rhumba an upmarket affair

Nairobi News brings you a handful of the life and times of the late legendary rhumba singer whose music continues making waves among the old and the young alike, giving rise to a Generation Z who would rather listen to him than RnB, Amapiano, and Bongo.

  1. Congo’s Madilu System, born Jean de Dieu Makiese was born on May 28, 1952 and died on August 11, 2007.
  2. His music career began in 1969 while he was a teenager whereby he sang with several bands until he managed to form his own band in 1973 but left it in 1976 after a series of highs and lows in his musical journey.
  3. He was married to Biya Matumuene Madilu and together, they had four children. In August 1995, it was also reported that he married a Swiss woman in Mombasa, Kenya, by the name Paulette Juonodi but not much was seen or heard of her.
  4. In 1980, his star finally shone globally after he joined the late Franco Luambo Makiadi’s TP OK Jazz Band. “I was introduced to the grand Luambo Makiadi by a vocalist, the late Dalienst Ntesa, in April 1980. In the beginning, Luambo Makiadi did not like me. He never used to give me any attention but later came to like me after I did a good job for him, when I performed well for him,” said Madilu in a past interview.
  5. What Madilu thought of Franco as a boss and mentor, “Franco’s life was complicated. We can praise him that he was a good person just because he is no more. Grand maitre was a good person. He used to feed people, he used to eat together with us as his musicians, we used to joke and laugh together but when he wore the other face of the boss, you could wonder if he was the same person you’ve just cracked jokes with. He was tricky. If you hired his Vis Avis hall to host your convert as members of his OK Jazz, he would demand to know how much you were to collect in terms of revenue. He would pocket 65% of that money, 5% went to the soloist and the remaining 30% was shared among the rest. If he wanted to frustrate, he would tell you openly that you won’t earn. He never used to hide anything. He could get really angry but he also ended up forgiving us when we wronged him in OK Jazz.”
  6. Despite Madilu being one of Franco’s main backup singers in the TP OK Jazz Band, he did not attend his boss’ funeral following his Aid’s related death on October 12, 1989. In an interview 14 years after Franco’s death, Madilu explained why he did not attend his late mentor’s funeral. “If I didn’t make it on my left-hand side, I finally made it on my right-hand side by the grace of Grand Maitre. There is no way I could abandon that kind of a person because he was the person who built my career. That story that Madilu abandoned Luambo is not true. OK Jazz had two branches. One branch was headed by Lutumba and the other by Madilu in Europe. So the time Luambo died, all of us were in the USA for a month. When we came back to Brussels, we found him in a bad condition. He died two weeks after we came back. Our Ambassador in Belgium saw how things were so first we were to put everything in order to return home together a week later. And that is what happened. I remained behind with the rest of the OK Jazz staff that were in Europe. We followed the Belgium government’s orders to return after a week,” explained the late Madilu.
  7. There were conflicting reports behind the cause of Madilu’s death. Reports had it that he suffered a diabetes complication, while others said he died due to heart failure.

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