Growing up, I was always familiar with an unforgettable name, “Louis Armstrong.” I easily identified him as an African-American jazz legend. I always admired him as an American Great. It was not until I began giving tours at The Louis Armstrong House Museum did I realize his international following.
A large majority of the visitors to The Louis Armstrong House Museum are from abroad. I have met a plethora of his beloved fans that were from a variety of places such as Europe, Asia and even all the way from Australia. Even though he passed almost half a century ago, his name brings smiles to the faces of many. During the tours, visitors are always elated to walk on the sacred grounds of his home.
This week, I had the delight of meeting an international couple, Asimba and Catherine. Following a tour, we had a friendly chat in the garden. They were visiting all the way from The Congo. It was Asimba’s very first time visiting the United States. Despite the endless tourist attractions America has to offer, it was quite astonishing that the couple chose to visit Louis’ home.
“My father used to play his music all the time,” Asimba said with a reflective smile. I thought to myself, “How did Louis gain popularity all the way across the world to The Congo?” With a little research in the archives I found my answer.
In 1960 Louis toured in Africa, and made a stop in The Congo. During that time there was a civil war between the followers of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu. Yet when Louis arrived in Leopoldville to perform, the opposing parties set aside their differences to welcome him. Louis briefly stopped an entire war! Armstrong performed in front of a sea of 175,000 people. In the crowd members of opposing parties interacted with one another despite political tensions. He was nicknamed “Okuka Lokole” meaning, “jungle wizard, the man who charm beasts.”
Visits from people like Asimba and Catherine are proof that Louis’ legacy still prevails to this day.