Franck Matamba: to be or not to be

The burden of expectations takes its toll at our most vulnerable (most likely around puberty, so called middle-life ‘crisis’, etc). At that point, a person decides either to fight every battle to claim the right to live and lead their own life; or they accept that “resistance is futile” and let themselves be assimilated by the fear of losing the protection of their familiars (family, government…) over the surely trivial matter of having some control over one’s own life. Either decision ‘to be or not to be’, is not easy. Both require the highest of sacrifices: either losing oneself or losing those around you.

Franck Matamba: the choice

It is the latter that my hero, Franck Matamba, chose, with the knowledge that only those who will trust and truly love him will come back to him. He made his way, away from the assumptions of his heritage to follow his dream and experience his own life and learn his own lessons. Since before I even knew him, sport was his passion. And twenty years down the line, I see him wallowing in the clouds of that dream, continuing to want more, not just for himself, but also and without any bitterness, for the children and youth he nurtures, in order to give them the support that he did not have when he needed it the most, at the beginning.

Franck Matamba: the obstacles

We know that the family’s emotional blackmail is only the first hurdle. Once we are living our dream, the intrinsical obstacles of the field itself will erect at every stage to make us doubt. I have had those doubts when the very occasional gig did not go well, finding the right producer revealed itself to be a drag or the only labels that came through wanted to make my music more ‘commercial’, my mind almost trying to beat me out of my passion and into so-called normality, no doubt a 9 to 5 ‘proper job’. Life itself throws distractions at us such as the financial blackmail of recurring bills, the emotionally and financially extorting partners and the ever-demanding offspring motivated by peer pressure, which in themselves are clearly enough to blur the most determined path. Then I think of Franck Matamba…

Passions, talent and intentions

There is no doubt that words, music and I have always had a strong relationship. Like sport is Franck Matamba’s, words and music are my way of expressing myself, from writing (including songwriting) to composing to performing, from music research to radio, from singing to dancing. I have seen how music has been the means for many other people too although I have learnt that ultimate goals may differ:  it was therefore important for me to be clear about the reasons why I was doing music, what I was trying to express in order to stay true to myself against the obstacles of the industry itself and in order to chose the right partners to assist me in this. Like Franck Matamba, I learnt to respect money for its undoubtful place in the world we live in, to afford life and some of the financially demanding whims of our passions. However, I believed what I had perceived from him, to refuse to accept money as a measure of our worth (the currency of talent), and anything it buys as a measure of our progress or evolution.

The fighter and the lover

As I sit at my 9 to 5 desk thinking of all similar sacrifices Franck Matamba and other people like him have made somewhere else, many times to the detriment of their health, in order to afford life and live our passions, I smile. The battles are never over, they just change forms with our own internal evolution. They kick at us the darkest of doubts, constantly nagging our immune systems with new threats. I pity the naggers: it must be hard to know you’ve lost and still nag to give yourself the semblance of a life. Their thrill is not in winning this war for they already know the outcome, imprinted as it is in the stubborn mind of the passionate dreamer. Their thrill is in delaying it, feeding as they do on the breadcrumbs of each doubt taking control for a split second over our lives at our most vulnerable. They know, as do Franck Matamba and I, after so many years of ups and downs: the fact is that the essence of us remains: we have already won the battle.

Competition and the measure of worth

If you were getting a little comfortable just now, this is the right time for life to unleash its deadliest of weapons. If ever you measured success on the quantity of your achievements or your PR drew the finest ink in town, your glorious days can soon be overshadowed by the natural cycle of life. Yes, Time will come and erase the very existence of your records, the shine of your medals and awards. Time will bring forth its tongue like a sword and speak of fashion and newness (newcomers, new records, new heights) to make you feel irrelevant and obsolete or worse like you never did make the print on the final tapestry of life, leaving you with only one impression: that you never advanced, in fact you’re last…


…as if progress, your progress were ever dictated by your position on the current charts or your visibility in the current news. As an athlete and a record holder, Franck Matamba taught me this: the human race is not about coming first, it is about always achieving your personal best and constantly learning to enrich every next step, every next performance, every next generation of your art. It is not a moment in time or achievement but the journey that matters and it is how far you have come that measures your growth. You learn that you are not just a survivor, you are life itself.

I write this while Franck is alive because our heroes need to know the inspiration they have provided, not because they were perfect but because they have enriched us with a unique and beautiful perspective of being human.

Editor’s Notes:

Franck Matamba holds the national record in Gabon for;
– the 800m men outdoor, 3 Jun 1994 (in 1:48.45) in Caluire, France
– the 4x400m men outdoor, on the 16 Apr 1995 (in 3:41.1) in Yaounde, Cameroon with the relay team H Nzengue, A Ondo and Charles Tayot
– the 800m men indoor, 27 Feb 1994 (in 1:56.48) in Bordeaux, France
– the 800m men outdoor, 8 Jul 1995 (in 1:48.45) in Caluire-et-Curie, France

Franck Matamba is currently one of the sports trainer in the France Junior team

Tiki Black is an award-winning singer-songwriter, author and broadcaster.