Congolese Guitarist Lokassa Ya M’Bongo Has Died
Photo Credit: Jack Vartoogian via Getty

Congolese Guitarist Lokassa Ya M’Bongo Has Died

Congolese guitarist Lokassa Ya M’Bongo, who was a trailblazer in soukous music, has passed away in the United States.

Renowned Congolese guitarist Lokassa Ya M’Bongo — born Denis Lokassa Kasiya — passed away in Nashua, New Hampshire in the United States on Tuesday night (March 15th) after fighting an extended illness. He was 76. According to Tabu Osusa, a Congolese music promoter based in Nairobi, Ya M’Bongo was suffering from heart diseases before his death. He was also battling diabetes and suffered a stroke a couple of years ago. Congolese musician Ngouma Lokito, a resident of New York, announced the death of the veteran guitarist in a Facebook post.

In the '60s, M’Bongo was part of the African Fiesta National band, playing and touring with the collective for more than 10 years. He would eventually help form the short-lived African All-Stars. M’Bongo would move to Paris in the '80s, getting work as a session player, before launching the Soukous Stars, a band that also included Ballou Canta, Dally Kimoko, Shimita, Zitany Nell, and Ngouma Lokito. Together, the band released Megamix Vol. 1, a project that would become one of the biggest soukous records of the early '90s, featuring popular songs like "Lagos Night" and "Nairobi Night."

At the height of his career, M’Bongo, who was a seasoned rhythm guitarist, played a monumental role in transforming soukous, a dance music genre that originated from Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville in the 1960s. With his musical touch, M’Bongo played a major role in revolutionizing the sound into a fast-paced, eclectic, combination of Congolese melodies and Afro-Cuban influences.