We land in Zaire’s Cité de la Voix, where the state-owned radio and television stations are located. Franco is filmed here at the Maman Angebi studio, named after an important female figure in Zairean television. That same night, he’s invited as a guest on the famous TV show “Variété Samedi Soir” [“Saturday Night Variety”; translator’s note] hosted by Lukunku Sampu, a star of Zairean television.
The almost-15-minute hit song “Mario” was released in 1985 and this live TV performance likely dates from the same year, if not 1986. It may also be the first time Franco introduced Madilu, previously confirmed as the main singer of the band from Brussels.
“Mario”: everyone sang his name, humming the tune of the song, across the African continent. Those who don’t speak Lingala remember the name, but very few understand its meaning. Mario is a type of gigolo living off a successful woman that supports him. But she complains about him: about his abuse, sexism (while he lives at her expense), brutality and irresponsibility. It is the critiques of the tired woman (“na lembi”, in Lingala) that are at the heart of the song. Madilu lends her voice. As for Franco, he plays the role of the unfortunate woman and berates Mario.
Who is Mario? There has been much speculation since the release of the song. Since Franco was like a painter of his own society, many people thought they would recognize his acquaintances or local celebrities. But since no one clearly knew who this gigolo was, Franco allowed the suspicions to grow, which created what we would call today “a buzz”: but who is Mario?
Watch the video above, translated for PAM by Kerwin Mayizo.