rumba on the river

Ringo Moya
1953 - 1993

Soukous session drummer and producer Ringo Moya died in Paris at the end of April after a long battle with liver disease. According to his friend and frequent col­laborator, Four Stars guitarist Syran M’Benza, Moya was first hospitalized in 1991 on the eve of a tour with Kanda Bongo Man. Doctors judged his condition to be serious enough to make him drop out of the group at the last minute. He received treatment for his ailment while continuing to work in Paris. In 1992 he per­formed in Angola and Zimbabwe but, according to M’Benza, his usual energy seemed lacking.

Born in Belgian Congo in 1953, Kanyama Moya Lotula learned to play drums while working as a techni­cian at the Philips recording stu­dio in Kinshasa in 1969. With guitarist Thierry Mantuika, he formed his first group, Zeus Na­tional, in 1970. Taking his stage name from Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, Moya went on to play with several of Congo/Zaïre’s best-known bands, including Vicky Longomba’s Lovy du Zaïre, Johnny Bokelo’s Conga de la Capitale and Rochereau’s Afrisa Inter­national.

In 1978 Moya moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he joined Sam Mangwana, Dizzy Mandjeku, Lokassa ya Mbongo and Théo Blaise Kounkou to form the seminal African All Stars. Relo­cating to Paris in 1984, he became a highly sought after session drummer and producer. His multicultural band, Wassa, formed in 1986. recorded a world-beat album called Irochima, but the group broke up after only a short time.

Moya’s 16-track home studio near the center of Paris was a popular place for musicians preparing a new album or demo tape. In a 1989 interview with Sylvie Clerfeuille for TheBeat, Moya explained why: “Most musicians heard about me in Zaïre or in Paris, and they want to work with me because I bring them the professional touch, the fusion sound. Usually, when you play music in Zaïre, you just come to the studio, plug in your guitar, and play. When Koffi Olomide, for example, or even Papa Wemba, Bembeya Jazz of Guinea, or Francois Lougah from Côte d’Ivoire come to see me, they know I can bring them a new sound, more techniques, a lot of work, a rigor they were lacking before.”

Moya is survived by his wife Valérie. He reportedly told friends he did not want his body returned home to Zaïre. He was buried in Paris.

© 1993 Gary Stewart
This article first appeared in The Beat, vol. 12 no. 4, 1993.