In spite of an attempt to create an East African music identity, almost all pop-culture music and dances from East Africa still retain a lot of strokes and moves from Congo.
Yet when Congolese music was at its peak, creativity was so abundant that almost every band (sometimes albums) used to have its own dance strokes.

Zekete Zekete, was created by Zaiko Langa Langa. Kwasa Kwasa, in spite of being nationalised (actually internationalised) was a creation of Langa Langa Stars (a splinter from Zaiko Langa Langa).
Drapo Rapo (Dance ya Ngenge: the dance of the best), the first attempt to Congolicise the Afro-Caribbean-Brazilian Salsa Dance, was introduced by Gabriel Lita Bembo of l’Orchestre Situka Boys.

Then there was l’Orchestre Minzoto Wella Wella with their Caneton Dance accompanied by the animated chants “caneton a laisement” (the duckling catwalks with swag). Caneton is French for duckling.

Initially, dancing at shows was a small thing in DR Congo. That was until Tabu Ley Rochereau of l’Orchestre Afrisa Internationale introduced Queen Dancers at his shows. The girls were called Rochereaurettes (Rochereau’s Girls); oh yes, after whom Koffi Olomide’s queen dancers are called Les Koffiettes. In an interview, Tabu Ley claimed he copied the queen dancer concept from James Brown, America’s king of Jazz.

And now you ask: is there a particular dance one would call Ugandan or East African? No. Even famous Swahili Ta’arab (and the more traditional Musondo) have lost their distinctive waist gyration stroke patterns. The wiggling of the waist is now structured to the Congolese waist workout patterns.

And again you ask: what’s music without a dance? More like tea without sugar. Even South African music’s poor attempt to colonise us in the late 1980 and early 1990s came with its dance. Don’t we all remember those Zulu war dance strokes (accompanying what we treated as urban pop music)?
And I say: If you bring me Ugandan music, give me a Ugandan dance too.

Political commentary
At its peak, music in the Democratic Republic of Congo was the repository of the national conscience. Everything was captured and frozen in the prism of music. In fact, Congolese music was a national institution. From the time of Corsai (later to be known as Papa Wendo) in the late 1940s, to today’s neophytes like Koffi Olomide, you can read Congolese history through Congolese music.

For instance in 1967, Mobutu declared nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba a national hero. To celebrate this, Franco Luambo Makiadi (he was close to president Mobutu) released Lumumba Hero Nationale.

But Tabu Ley Rochereau (he had been a cadre of Lumumba’s party), released a song titled Jean Baptiste whose very biblical lyrics were cleverly intended to demean Mobutu’s action. Like John the Baptist, Tabu Ley subtly made it known: ‘he (Mobutu) was not worthy carrying Lumumba’s sandals; leave alone declaring him a national hero’.

Mid to late 1980s, Tabu Ley was so disgusted he started composing and singing in Kiswahili praising other regional leaders. His two famous Kiswahili compositions are Tuende Nairobi (vocals by Mbilia Bel), praising president Moi of Kenya and Nelson Mandela (eponymous) challenging White minority rule in South Africa and many others.

The irony of a Zairean musician (under the ‘authenticite’ cultural revolution) praising a foreign leader in a foreign language was not lost on the Mobutists. (Although Kiswahili is now accepted as one of the national languages, it was treated alien during the Mobutu era). He ended up in exile where he did Exi-Ley, one of his best songs.
In the later 1980s and early 90s, the singers were more bold in their chants, yet still remained subtle: Kanda Bongo did ‘emayebo, ya kuvola (the mushrooms are rotten); Koffi Olomide did ‘tala tenge motuka monene oyo akangi nzela’ (look at how the big vehicle has blocked the road). All the rotten mushrooms and big vehicles blocking the road were depictions of Mobutu.

Apart from political commentary, Congolese music was also a vehicle for social commentary. But even in social commentary, the creativity was conspicuous. Take Ndina Omwami (I am Married) by Ngoni and Desire Luzinda and Flora Une Femme Deficile (Flora, the difficult lady) by Franco Lumabo.
Both songs are what one would refer to as feel-good bon soiree (good evening) songs with little depth. But their social commentary tag cannot be lost in that little depth characterisation.

The band
The most conspicuous aspect of Congolese music was ‘l’orchestre’ (the band). Although most of the successful musicians in Ugandans play solo (and have crews), the Congolese band phenomenon had its own advantages.
With the availability of instruments, the band was the only sure way of nurturing and retaining talent. However, the biggest aspect of the band phenomenon of Congolese music was the adoption of musicians as salaried employees. As salaried employees, the sky was always the limit for the musicians.

But…!? Salaried employment for musicians though had its downside: ambitious young musicians could move from band to band thereby unsettling bands (employers).
With salaries as a big issues, Congolese Music was dominated by three men namely Tabu Ley Rochereau (of l’Orchestre Afrisa Internationale), Franco Luambo Makiadi (of TPOK Jazz) and Kyamuangana Mateta (of l’Orchestre Veve and later Editions Veve production house).

Background
Creations
Zekete Zekete, was created by Zaiko Langa Langa. Kwasa Kwasa, in spite of being nationalised (actually internationalised) was a creation of Langa Langa Stars (a splinter from Zaiko Langa Langa).
Drapo Rapo (Dance ya Ngenge: the dance of the best), the first attempt to Congolicise the Afro-Caribbean-Brazilian Salsa Dance, was introduced by Gabriel Lita Bembo of l’Orchestre Situka Boys.