Sunday, April 24, 2016

King of Makossa Papa wemba dies

papa wemba, one of Africa’s greatest
music stars, has died after collapsing
on stage during a festival in the Ivory
Coast, the event organisers said
Papa Wemba, who was known as the
“king of Congolese rumba” for helping
to bring the highly popular sound to
an international audience, was 66.
The flamboyant singer died shortly
after after performing three songs at
the Urban Musical Festival Anoumabo
(FEMUA) in Abidjan, the organisers
The FEMUA management expressed its
“deep sorrow” at the death of a man
who has been at the forefront of
African music for more than four
Papa Wemba was born Jules Shungu
Wembadio Pene Kikumba in June 1949
in what was then Belgian Congo.
He began his singing career in
religious choirs in which he developed
his trademark high range voice,
making his debut in the capital
Kinshasa at the end of the 1960s.
He inherited his love of song from his
mother, who was a professional
“wailing woman” at funerals.
He was convicted in 2004 of smuggling
illegal immigrants into France by
disguising them as members of his
band but walked free as he had
already served four months behind
He was supported by a host of fans
during his Paris trial in which he was
sentenced to a 30-month term, with 26
months suspended, and a fine of
10,000 euros ($11,000).
– Colourful dandy –
Papa Wemba, who was also known for
his flamboyant style of dress, was a
founding member of the “Society of
Dandies and Trendy People” in what is
now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Like many of his generation he was
strongly influenced by American and
British pop culture and initially took
the stage name Jules Presley.
In 1969 he helped found Zaiko Langa
Langa, a Zaire-based pop group that
was to achieve cult status in the 1970s
with its revival of Latin American
The group revitalised the style that had
been popular in the 1940s, using a
combination of Afro-Cuban rhythm
and Congolese song while introducing
rock rhythms and electronic sounds.
Papa Wemba settled in France in 1986
as his fame began to reach as far
afield as Japan, dazzled by the African
dandy who was dressed by the world’s
leading designers.
He went on to reach a much wider
public thanks to a world music album
produced by France’s Martin
Meissonnier in 1988, which blended
African and western sounds.
Papa Wemba’s career began to falter
after parting ways with in 1999 the
Real World record label that was
founded by British rock star, the
former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel.

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