Ivory Coast honored the late-Congolese music legend Papa Wemba with a memorial plaque Tuesday.
The blue plaque, which bears the inscription “Papa Wemba’s Place” and erected at the place where he collapsed while performing at the Festival of Urban Music on April 24, 2016, was unveiled at an electrifying ceremony that was attended by Ivorian Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman and his Congolese counterpart Jean Claude Gakosso, according to Africa News.
“Papa Wemba had left a rich and varied musical testimonial for posterity and whose anthology is a true school for the young generation of African musicians,” Bandaman eulogized the fallen legend.
The pop star was also eulogized by fellow musicians, including Sonore Asalfo, a lead vocalist of the popular Ivorian music group Magic System and the Sapuers from DR Congo.
“Papa Wemba has gone away, but his heritage remains. It is up to us artists from Africa and elsewhere to assume the cultural heritage that Papa Wemba has left us,” said Asalfo.
King of Rumba
Born in 1949 in Lubefu, Belgian Congo, Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, popularly known as Papa Wemba, was a renowned singer who specialized in Congolese rhumba, soukous, and ndombolo.
Many of his fans regarded him as the “King of Rhumba Rock” largely due to his unique ability to produce timeless rhumba hits.
Watch “Yolele” here:
Papa Wemba’s road to stardom started back in the late 1960s, when he joined the music group Zaiko Langa Langa, an influential rock band comprised of well-known Congolese artists such as Nyoka Longo Jossart and Bimi Ombale.
Right from the start, Wemba positioned himself as a unique musician with his distinctive style that combined traditional Congolese rhumba with soukous and a bit of Caribbean rhythms.
But he acquired his international fame through his popular band Viva La Musica with which he traveled all over the world, including France, where he was able to develop an exclusive sound.
As a teenager, Papa Wemba sang in a local Catholic choir.
“There was always the influence of religious music on my voice because, with religious music, the mirror key always recurs. When I compose songs, I often use the mirror key,” Papa Wemba said in an interview with Esepelisa.
Apart from his unique music style, Papa Wemba is also remembered for his many ageless hits, such as “Yolele,” “Sala Keba,” “Rail On,” “Show Me the Way,” “Bakwetu,” and many others.
Watch Papa Wemba perform “Show Me the Way” here:
Watch Papa Wemba perform “Bakwetu” here:
He died in 2016 at the age of 66 while performing in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It is widely reported that the acclaimed king of rhumba had wished to die with a microphone in his hand.