1934-March 21, 2010
East Palo Alto, California
Ma Boukaka, musician and former Stanford employee, 76, died March 21. He was born and raised in The Republic of Congo. At a young age he left his village to work as a cook in Brazzaville. There he met his first wife Makelola Louise and together they had daughter, Regine. He then took a job as a pisteur (guide, hunter, and cook) for a French safari company operating in Northern Congo and Gabon. He met Alan Baer, a young American who offered to bring him the United States. He accepted and came to the Peninsula in 1959 to work as a housekeeper and cook for Baer's mother.
He joined a church in San Mateo and eventually ended up at Stanford Medical School in the department of psychiatry working with research animals. He remained at Stanford for 38 years until he retired in 1999.
Most important to him was his family, his culture and his music. When he came to the U.S., he brought his talent and music to people by playing drums in the park, leading drum circles and building Tanawa chairs.
When Malonga Casquelourd came to East Palo Alto in 1976, he, Paul N'Goumba and Ma Boukaka together formed the dance troupe "Fua Dia Congo." When his daughter Regine came to the U.S. later that year, she became lead dancer and together they helped bring East Palo Alto to the forefront of African culture in the United States. In 1982 he began teaching weekly drum classes at Peninsula School in Menlo Park. He also formed a Congolese rock band, Bole Bantu.
He joined the Congolese Dance and Drum Workshop as cook and drum teacher, where he met his second wife, Nancy Edelson, with whome he had two more daughters, Miayuku and Makela. Loved ones recall him as upbeat, strong, forgiving, and loving.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy Edelson Boukaka; daughters Regine Boukaka Ndounda, Miayuku Boukaka and Makela Boukaka; one grandchild; and many other relatives and friends.