African Music Legend Papa Wemba (1949 – 2016) passes during concert

Legendary Congolese singer, Papa Wemba (real name Jules Kikumba) is dead. Aged 67, the musician reportedly slumped during a live performance at a music festival in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, early on Sunday morning. A report from a private morgue in Abidjan where his body was taken, said Wemba was performing at the Anoumabo Urban Music Festival (FEMUA) when he collapsed on stage. According to Papa Wemba’s spokesman, Henry Vokia, the singer suffered a seizure while performing on stage.

Vokia said, “Papa Wemba had sung the first and the second song. While singing the third song, he collapsed. I was following the concert live on television. I saw the dancers surround him. I thought it was a scene for the concert. Before his death, Papa Wemba, who started singing at age 20, was a globally-acclaimed exponent of modern Congolese rhumba. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, he was considered one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.

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Wemba’s music had influenced generations of Congolese and he was a living reminder of better times, especially the 1970s, when the Congo was still known as Zaire. Having honed his skill under the supervision of his idol, Tabu Ley and his group, the Viva la Musica, he had proceeded in the 1980s to help nurture the Congo’s next music generation.

Apart from serving as a cultural bridge between his country’s past and the present, Papa Wemba will be remembered for his hit songs, such as, ‘Matambele Bangui’, ‘Sala Keba’ and ‘Mabele Makonzi.’ But he will be remembered more for being a firm believer in art for art’s sake and for constantly encouraging fellow musicians not to mix their art with politics. Wemba was born in 1949 in the Kasai-Oriental province, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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