The iconic Congolese singer opens up about his latest album, vast influence and future plans.
After a moment's long view of his Paris studio, Fally Ipupa finally approaches the screen with a confident aura, filling the room with an energy that leaves me thinking: "He looks exactly like he sounds!" My mental image of Fally in a '90s music video, thanks to my parents' cassettes and CD tapes, immediately elapses as the all-white fit, button-down shirt, big glasses and bowler hat combo I had imagined is replaced by a sharply dressed dude wearing a warm smile and a baseball hat that he raises as he prompts me to begin.
From the DJ mix at every family gathering to the Apollo Theater in New York City, many would argue that Fally Ipupa has single-handedly popularised Congolese Rumba—a sound he describes as one of "dance, passion, and love."
The renowned musician began his career in the late '90s, singing and dancing alongside music legend Koffi Olomide in a group called Quartier Latin — before taking on the role of accompanying his mentor alone, and soon after pursuing a solo career through his debut offering Droit Chemin. This 2006 album earned gold status when it sold over 100,000 copies. Over and above his incredible discography, Fally Ipupa stays connected to the world through effortless features as seen in "Chaise Electrique" with former G-Unit singer Olivia, "Nous Les Meilleurs (We The Best)" alongside D'banj, and on "Yakuza" featuring Wizkid. He has also been the recipient of multiple awards including MTV Africa Music Awards for Best Video and Best Francophone Artist.
The 43-year-old star was born and raised in Kinshasa, the largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo—also home to the most influential Rumba and Soukous acts, which include the likes of Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide. Fally combining the acoustic bass, the fingerstyle guitar, the vibrating brass and live drums is truly one of the continent's most influential and indelible sounds. However, his immense crossover with his 2017 album Tokooos was met with a lot of disapproval from many of his Congolese fanbases as they yearned for a strict Rumba project. But as they say, "People don't like change until they do." A year later, he satisfied his fans with the release of the album Control, proving that he can execute both sounds with ease.
The award-winning mogul has impelled new generations with his peculiar sound—a medley of soul, R&B, the original styles of Soukous and Rumba. Four months into the release of his latest album, Tokooos II, we discuss everything from his undeniable influence, future plans and much more.