21 April 2017

Kenya: Fans Set to Mark Papa Wemba's Anniversary

Photo: Papa Wemba/Facebook
Papa Wemba.

It is one year since Congolese crooner Papa Wemba collapsed and and died while performing in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire. Several events are planned in Kinshasa, Congo DR to mark the occasion.

Papa Wemba's real name was Jules Shungu Wembadio. His untimely death has spawned a number of conspiracy theories.

Like many other accomplished artistes from DRC, Papa Wemba made a name for himself in France and Belgium, with his enthralling compositions. He also mentored many up-and-coming musicians and collaborated with many artistes, including Koffi Olomide.

Wemba's anniversary will be marked on Monday. Despite many theories on the cause of his death, his family has chosen to keep off the controversies.

One fan posted an online video alleging that the Viva la Musica band leader had been poisoned on stage. However, Wemba's tour manager Marie Laure was quick to discount the rumour at the time.

Controversy, however, continued to stalk the family. During Wemba's funeral, his widow, Marie Amazone, appeared in yet another clip seeming to snub a handshake from veteran Congolese musician and producer Kiamuangana Wazolambongo Mateta "Verkys", now a national musicians union official. Wemba and Kiamuangana had reportedly had a strained relationship.

The feud during the funeral, which had inadvertently involved songbird Tshala Muana, was later sorted out.

Similarly, Koffi Olomide, who began his music career by recording with Pepa Wemba, had also become a bitter rival of his old mentor. It was a double tragedy for Koffi, who lost his father the same week that Wemba died.


In Nairobi, a tribute show will be held next Saturday at the Dolce Club in the city centre. Promoter Jules Nsana said former Viva La Musica singer PomPom Miyake and the Rumba Japan band will be on stage.

"The night will be dedicated to playing Wemba's songs. Patrons will don in elegant stage attire just like Papa Wemba," Nsana said.

Kenyan FM radio stations are expected to dedicate some time to playing his songs starting this weekend.

In Europe, the anniversary will be marked in Brussels tomorrow.

Speaking to Saturday Nation this week, Paris-based Congolese crooner Nyboma Mwandido said no show had been planned for Paris.

"We have been in touch with some friends in Brussels, who will hold a tribute for Wemba," Nyboma said. Some former members of Wemba's Viva la Musica such as Reddy Amisi and Stino Mubi are based in Paris.

The flamboyant Wemba, who was 66 at the time of his death, will also be remembered for his unique contribution to the world of fashion.

Having been anointed the leader of the Sapeurs community, known for their elegant dressing style, many will emulate his dress sense during the anniversary. In 1979, Wemba became the leader of the Sapeur community, men with a flamboyant taste of dress.

During his illustrious musical career, Wemba at one time managed two groupings of Viva La Musica. One played the rumba rock beat, while the other incorporated world music.

To many, he was seen as a kingpin of the third generation of Congolese musicians, having mentored many of them.

Before forming Viva la Music, Wemba was a founder of Orchestre Zaiko Langa band in the late 1960s. Later, he played with Isifi and Yoka Lokole bands.

Some of his biggest hits include Show Me the Way, Yolele, Analengo, Kaokokorobo and Wake-Up, a collaboration with Koffi Olomide.

In Kinshasa, other than his music dominating the airwaves and clubs, the focus of the celebrations will be in downtown Matonge suburb, where Wemba grew up and had a fanatical following.

Wemba was also a revered family man, known to have supported his many adopted and biological children.


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