A world-class musician finally gets his due

The Congolese singer-guitarist-bandleader François Luambo — who performed as “Franco” and was one of the greatest African musicians of the 20th century — has finally got the retrospective he deserves.

Francophonic starts with a track from the guitarist’s first recording session, in 1953 (Franco was 15 at the time), and ends with a 1980 workout whose title translates as “I Don’t Like You.” The rest of the two-disc set includes rumbas, soukous, coded political songs, and the spectacular, chiming jams (or sebenes) that Franco’s band, TPOK Jazz, was known for. The excellent liner notes tell you most of what you need to know about the cultural, political, and musical context and provide more than a few fascinating facts. For instance: Most of Franco’s international audience assumed the exquisite 1973 recording “AZDA” was a love song; it was actually a jingle for a Zairean Volkswagen dealership.

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