The Wild World of Koffi Olomide
Despite rumors of his death that circulated earlier this year, Koffi Olomide is most definitely still alive and kicking. Moreover, at the age of 61, the Congolese musician is still releasing chart-topping hits, including recent songs like ‘Tshou Tshou Tshou,’ ‘Selfie’ and ‘Mwana Ina.’ Olomide’s career can only be described as legendary despite his many controversies, and he continues to pursue grandiose plans for his musical future.
Who is Koffi Olomide?
Born Antoine Christophe Agbepa Mumba and known by as many as 35 different nicknames, Koffi Olomide is a singer, dancer, and producer most famous for helping to popularize the style of music known as soukous, a type of Congolese music based on the traditional rumba. Originally, Olomide first produced mainly slower soukous music, which he called Tcha Tcho, but in more recent years he has began to produce higher tempo dance music known as soukous ndombolo.
After studying in France, Olomide returned to his home of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s, where he immediately began producing music with famed soukous artist Papa Wemba and his band Viva La Musica. In the mid-80s, he then formed his own band, Quartier Latin International, and has since been recording both with his band and as a solo artist. His recordings have helped Olomide earn a huge following both in Africa and Europe, but his career has also been marked by numerous controversies.
Olomide’s Controversial Career
Much of the controversies surrounding Olomide have been related to his lyrics, and his songs often tackle current events, politics, and other issues considered taboo in the more conservative societies of Congo and other African nations. More recently, Olomide and other soukous stars have also been mired in controversy due to claims that the fast-paced, hip-swinging dance associated with ndombolo soukous music is considered by many to be obscene. As a result, there have been efforts in Kenya, Mali, and Cameroon to ban the music, and some of Olomide’s music videos have also been banned in DRC Congo for the same reason.
However, not all of Olomide’s controversies are related to his music, and the artist has had numerous run-ins with the law over the course of his career. In 2012, a Congolese court found him guilty of assaulting his former producer and sentenced him to a three-month suspended sentence. That same year, a French court also charged the singer with three counts of illegal confinement and rape following complaints from his back-up singers, although the case never went to court. The artist was also arrested for assaulting a cameraman at one of his concerts in 2008, and in 2016, he was arrested in Kenya after video surfaced of him kicking one of his back-up dancers. The singer was eventually sentenced to a year and a half in prison for the crime, although the sentence was later commuted to only three months after the Congolese government intervened on his behalf.
Despite the various controversies surrounding both the man and his music, Koffi Olomide remains as popular today as ever, and his wild soukous rhythms can be heard pumping out of dance clubs all across central, eastern, and western Africa, as well as France and other parts of Europe. Part of the reason that the singer remains so popular is that he is not afraid to tackle contentious issues and speak up about current events affecting Africans. Evidence of this can be directly seen in some of his new songs and recent collaborations, which show off his versatility and point to a continued bright future for Olomide despite his advancing years.