Last Sunday Papa Wemba collapsed at a concert in Ivory Coast and died shortly afterwards. To die in the armor is probably just the way he had always wanted it, how shocking this news may seem. Papa Wemba (born Lubefu in 1949) became famous as a young singer when he joined the band Zaiko Langa Langa in 1969.
Congolese rumba (or soukous) was big in the fifties and sixties, when African artists were mixing traditional Congolese music with soul and Latin American and Caribbean rhythms.
The band played a modern and bold version of rumba, full of tight drums and electric guitars, and therefore Zaiko Langa Langa was very popular with mainly Congolese youth. Not least because of the appearance of the band, always well dressed in the latest imported fashions. But Zaiko Langa Langa was also popular because the band created a true dance craze in the seventies with the very exciting cavacha rhythm.
From 1974 onwards Papa Wemba founded a few own bands. First Isifi Lokole, later Yoka Lokole and eventually the band Viva la Musica. As a bandleader with this group Wemba wanted to give young Congolese talent an opportunity and the composition of the group therefore changed constantly. Viva la Musica had big hits with songs like ‘African Bokulaka’ and ‘Mere Superior. And Papa Wemba was a star in his home country, especially as one of the leaders of the Congolese La SAPE, a movement which wanted to show with striking and fashionable clothes that Africans could survive very well without colonial rulers.
See also les Sapeurs; battle of the dandies
Too numerous to mention but one of my own favourites must be this collaboration with Hector Zazou from 1983 on the excellent Crammed Discs from Brussels, Belgium. A quite rare and hard to find wave-afro funker.
(Crammed Discs 023 -Belgium 1983)
See also this documentary of Papa Wemba – The King Of Sape/ Papa Wemba Le Roi De La Sape. Not for the fainthearted….
source; de Volkskrant April 25 2016 -Robert Gijssel