|Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba (June 14, 1949 – April 24, 2016), more commonly known by his stage name Papa Wemba, was a Congolese musician, known for working in the Congolese rumba (later known as soukous) genre. He was one of Africa‘s most popular musicians of the period and prominent in world music. He has been dubbed the “King of Rumba”. He suffered a seizure while performing in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and died on 24 April 2016.|
Zaiko Langa Langa
Papa Wemba was one of the very first musicians to join the influential Soukous band,Zaiko Langa Langa when it was created in December 1969 in Kinshasa along with such well known Congolese musicians as Nyoka Longo Jossart, Manuaku Pepe Felly, Evoloko Lay Lay, Bimi Ombale, Teddy Sukami, Zamuangana Enock, Mavuela Simeon, Clan Petrole and others.
In a Congolese musical world dominated at the time by Franco Luambo and his remarkable band TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau‘s Afrisa, and by then-new musical groups such as Les Grands Maquisards, Le Trio Madjesi, and even younger bands such as Bella-Bella, Thu Zaina and Empire Bakuba, the young and talented Papa Wemba (then known as Jules Presley Shungu Wembadio) was one of the driving forces that, by 1973, made Zaiko Langa Langa one of the most-performing dominant Congolese groups, featuring such popular numbers as “Chouchouna” (Papa Wemba), “Eluzam” and ” Mbeya Mbeya” (Evoloko Lay Lay), “BP ya Munu” (Efonge Gina), “Mwana Wabi” and “Mizou” (Bimi Ombale) and “Zania” (Mavuela Somo).
In December 1974, at the pinnacle of their fame (and just a month after the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali andGeorge Foreman in Kinshasa), Shungu Wembadio (Papa Wemba), along with Evoloko Lay Lay, Mavuela Somo and Bozi Boziana(who had joined Zaiko Langa Langa a year earlier), left Zaiko Langa Langa to establish their own musical ensemble Isifi Lokole, ISIFI being an acronym for “Institut du Savoir Ideologique pour la Formation des Idoles”.
The “feux d’artifice” (fireworks) that was Isifi Lokole would only last a year, with the single “Amazone” (Papa Wemba) as its biggest commercial “hit” record. In November 1975, Papa Wemba, Mavuela Somo and Bozi Boziana abandoned Evoloko Lay Lay and Isifi Lokole to create the group Yoka Lokole (also known as The Kinshasa’s Wa Fania All-Stars, or Lokole Isifi, or simply Isifi), along with Mbuta Mashakado, another Zaiko Langa Langa “transfusion”.
Like Isifi Lokole, the electronic-instrument-driven Yoka Lokole (or The Kinshasa All-Stars) would not last much longer than a year, given the merger of so many big-name talents in the band’s lineup. After a year of modest success, controversies within Yoka Lokole over money and prestige (complicated by Wemba’s arrest and brief incarceration in Kinshasa Central prison in December 1976 for the “crime” of being suspected of having had physical intimacy with an influential army general’s daughter) would lead Papa Wemba, then feeling diminished by peers and neglected by the public, to form his own group Viva la Musica in February 1977, after a very brief return to Isifi Lokole and Stukas Boys of Lita Bembo, where he played for a few weeks as a guest.
Viva la Musica
At his home in the Matonge neighborhood of Kinshasa, Papa Wemba structured Viva la Musica around young talented artists such as singers Kisangani Esperant, Jadot le Cambodgien, Pepe Bipoli and Petit Aziza, guitarists Rigo Star, Syriana, and Bongo Wende.
At the height of his success in 1977, Papa Wemba’s family home, in Kanda-Kanda street, which had become a popular, some even said hallowed place for Matonge youths to gather “à la mode” (i.e., to be cool), was named the “Village Molokai,” and Wemba assumed the exalted moniker “Chef Coutumier” (Chief) of the Village of Molokai. That village in the heart of Matonge, included the following streets, which firsts letters were used to form the acronym: M-O-LO-KA-I: Masimanimba-Oshwe-LOkolama-KAnda-kanda-Inzia.
In those days people referred to Wemba as the “chief from the heartland (village)” to differentiate him from Kinshasa-born musical bigshots Mavuela Somo and Mashakado. However, years later Mavuela would say that their difficulties simply amounted to trivial foolishness over money, ambition and fame between some very young people (as at the time they all were).
Since 1977, Viva la Musica has seen both the “defections” of musicians every two or three years and the entrée and emergence of other new talents. Fafa de Molokai, Debs Debaba, King Kester Emeneya (1977–82), Koffi Olomide, as a singer, (1978–79), Djuna Djanana (1978–81), Dindo Yogo (1979–1981), Maray-Maray (1980–84), Lidjo Kwempa (1982–2001), Reddy Amissi (1982–2001), Stino Mubi (1983–2001) are among the currently well-known Congolese musicians who have served at one time or another with Viva la Musica.
After the wave of African emigration to Europe in the 1990s, Wemba maintained one group in Kinshasa (called at times “Nouvelle Ecriture”, “Nouvel Ecrita”, and now again “Viva la Musica”) and another one in Paris (“Nouvelle Generation,” “La Cour des Grands,” and now “Viva Tendance”).
Wemba is also known as an actor. In 1987, he played the male lead role in the successful Zairean (Congolese) film La Vie est Belleby Belgian director Benoît Lamy and Congolese producer-director Ngangura Mweze. In 2012, he had a cameo role in the Belgian drama film Kinshasa Kids.
High and low times
On 18 February 2003, suspected of being involved in a network that has allegedly smuggled hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) into Europe, Papa Wemba was arrested at his home in Paris.
He was eventually found guilty by a Belgian court in June 2003 and sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment and a 22.000 euro fine. He spent three and a half months in prison, an experience that, on his release after a €30,000 bail was posted, he declared had had a profound psychological effect on him. The singer claimed to have undergone a spiritual conversion in jail and even recounted this episode on his album Somo Trop (released in October 2003). On the song “Numéro d’écrou”, he recalled the day “God” paid a visit to his cell.
In 1979, Papa Wemba became the leader of the La Sape (Sape is an acronym for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes d’Élégance, literally the “Society of Ambiance-ists and People of Elegance”) which he promoted as a Congolese youth subculture. Wemba said:
Congolese legend Papa Wemba has passed on after collapsing on stage while performing in Ivory Coast.
Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba mostly known as Papa Wemba was born June 14, 1959 and has passed on one month and half short of his 67th birthday.
Papa Wemba was famously known for being the leader of Sapeur which he promoted as a youth cult.
The legendary artiste was known for songs like yolele, wake up, rail on, moyi, matebu and sala keba among others.
The death of Papa Wemba comes at a time when the world was also mourning the death of yet another legendary artiste, ‘Prince.’ Papa will truly be missed.