The music fraternity has joined the rest of the world to mourn the sudden passing of Congolese music legend Jules ShunguWembadio Pene Kikumba known by the stage name Papa Wemba.
Papa Wemba, 66, collapsed and died on stage while performing during the Festival des MusiquesUrbainesd’Anoumabo (FEMUA), a popular music festival in Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday.
Organisers of the festival released a statement announcing the unfortunate passing of the “show me the way” singer, who was performing his third song.
A video footage released shows the singer slumping down as his back up dancers rush to check on him. His dancers had remained oblivious of his state as they continued with the performance. Shortly members of the Red Cross are seen rushing on stage to help the singer as the music stops.
“It is indeed sad news. I was shocked and hurt when I heard about his death. Papa Wemba was one of the greatest musicians of our time. He was known to me personally. I called his family and passed on my condolences,” said Intore Masamba.
“He was not only a legend in Congo but a global icon that made Rumba popular by fusing it with modern music. We used to meet in Belgium and France during performances and last year when I was in Kinshasa, I attended one of his shows,” Masamba added.
The Gakondo singer said that he had a hearty chat with the “King of Rumba” who encouraged him to carry on performances in public places rather than wait for concerts because it is the only way “we can take music to the people”.
Masamba plans to travel to Kinshasa for burial while his Gakondo group will perform a tribute for him this Friday at Hotel Des Mille Collines.
Singer and show host Lion Imanzi also pointed out that few months ago, rumours had circulated that Papa Wemba had died but it turned out to be a hoax.
“When I heard the news about his death I prayed that it turns out to be a hoax again but unfortunately it was true. It is sad news for people of our generation who grew up listening to his music,”
“It is even more saddening for a great artiste like Papa Wemba to pass on when we are still mourning the passing of one of the greatest music icons Prince. I will always recall his unique style and ability to transform Rumba to an internationally recognised genre. His legacy will live on,” he noted.
Music Producer Clement Ishimwe said that losing a great artiste like Papa Wemba has left a big vacuum not only in Congo and the region but the entire Africa.
“He influenced very many Congolese Musicians such Koffi Olomide, Fally Ipupa as well as several East African artistes who adopted the Rumba style of music,” he said.
Aline Gahongayire, a musician and music judge, noted that Papa Wemba was an internationally recognised artiste who kept his music original and took Congolese music to the international level.
“He was also a God-fearing musician who always referred to God in his music and used music to send a positive message. It is sad that he died on stage but it is consoling to know that he died doing what he loved most in the presence of adoring fans,”
“He had a great sense of humour and stage presence which clearly showed that he enjoyed what he was doing. His legacy will live on forever,” Gahongayire
Several regional musicians including Bebe Cool from Uganda and Sauti Sol from Kenya also took to their social media platforms to mourn the passing of the singer.
Papa Wemba, along with Koffi Olomide, Awilo Longomba, Kanda Bongoman and others are responsible for making Congolese music popular among Rwandans and East Africans.
The singer, whose music career spans over 50 years, was a member of the 1960’s band Zaiko Langa Langa, which made Soukous style of music popular, before he went on to form his own music group Viva la Musica.
Papa Wemba also inspired a cult movement known as LeSapeurs, a following of young men who emphasise spending money on designer clothes and looking elegant.
In 2004, he was convicted in France of a role in an illegal immigration racket and spent three months in prison.
After his release, he announced that his faith had been impacted while in prison. His last album was Maître D’école released in 2014.