KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – A SOMBRE mood has gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo and other parts of the world following the death of one of the most recognizable figures in the famous Rhumba music, Papa Wemba.
Music doyens from the country and beyond the borders as well as celebrities paid their tribute but struggled to come to terms with the veteran musician (66) who passed away on stage while performing in the Ivory Coast last Sunday.
World-famous Cameroonian saxophonist and vibraphone, Manu Dibango mourned the passing of the Yolele hitmaker as “a painful beginning to 2016.”
“Africa has lost another worthy son in the shape of Papa Wemba. He was the voice of Africa. We are all orphans,” he said.
Dibango’s countryman and African most successful footballer, Samuel Eto’o Fils, reminisced listening to the Zaiko Langa Langa star’s hit songs.
“We got chills listening to Wake Up, Okoningana, Ye Te – to name a few. I’m all the more affected by this sad event as I’m a big fan of Congolese music. Papa Wemba so loved his music that he left while performing,” said Fils.
Koffi Olomide, arguably one of the DRC’s and Africa’s biggest music stars described the demise as “a catastrophe.”
“Congolese music has been decimated. It’s been blown apart. I don’t know what to say,” he struggled with emotion.
“To be honest, from now on, life means nothing, we are nothing. I lost both a friend and a big brother,” said Olomide, who performed the duet Wake-Up with Wemba in 1996.
Felix Wazekwa, one of the deceased’s backing vocalists backing vocalists, was out of words and went numb.
Benin-born songbird, Angelique Kidjo, summed the tributes.
“He had a voice of an angel,” she said.
Meanwhile, a delegation of six people was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast to collect the remains of Papa Wemba, Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba.
This consists among other things of the wife of the deceased, Mademe Marie Rose Luzolo, his manager Marie Laure, Yaone and Sankuru governor, Berthold Ulungu.
In a telephone interview, Yaone confirmed the repatriation of the body for Thursday to Kinshasa.
A special flight chartered by the Ivorian authorities will carry the body.
Organisers of the Urban Music Festival Anoumabo, where the late musician died performing, staged an all-night event on the night of Wednesday–Thursday.
About 100 musicians will participate in the mortuary night in honour of the legend.
Kinshasa Governor, Andre Kimbuta Yango, who chairs the organizing committee for the funeral, said Wemba’s his remains would be temporarily in kept in morgue at the Hospital du Cinquantenaire before the funeral two days later.
In Kinshasa, while the mood was solemn, his music could be heard playing in a number of bars, shops and cars.
Besides a stellar music career spanning over four decades and producing some 35 albums, the deceased also appeared in a number of films, among them, Les Habits neufs du gouverneur (The Governor’s New Clothes) (2004), Combat de fauves (Wild Games) (1997) and La Vie est Belle (Life Is Beautiful) (1987).
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary- General in the DRC, Maman Sambo Sidikou, expressed sadness at the death of the King of Rhumba music.
“Papa Wemba is a legend and highly talented artist who carried high the banner of not only the Congolese but also the African music and culture in the world’s music arena,” said Sidikou.
– CAJ News