He might have left this world unceremoniously, but for the 67 years he spent here on earth, Pa wemba earned a living on stage and, as fate would have it, also died on stage.
Christened by his parent as Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, he took the name Papa Wemba as his artistic name in 1975. Papa Wemba was one of the very first musicians to join the influential Soukous band fondly called Zaiko Langa Langa when it was created in December 1969 in the former Zaire (later renamed as Democratic Republic of Congo by Kabila.
He worked alongside other influential Congolese stars like Nyoka Longo Jossart, Manuaku Pepe Felly, Evoloko Lay Lay, Bimi Ombale, Teddy Sukami, Zamuangana Enock, Mavuela Simeon, Clan Petrole and others .
Pa Wemba was one of Africa’s most popular musicians, prominent in world music, and a fashion icon who popularized the Sapeur look and style through his musical group Viva la Musica.
In a Congolese musical world dominated at the time by Franco Luambo and his remarkable band TP OK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau’s Afrisa, the young and talented Papa Wemba was one of the driving forces that, by 1973, made Zaiko Langa Langa one of the most-performing dominant Congolese groups, featuring such popular singers in Zaire and beyond.
In December 1974, at the pinnacle of their fame (and just a month after the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa), Papa Wemba , along with Evoloko Lay Lay, Mavuela Somo and Bozi Boziana, left Zaiko Langa Langa to form their own musical ensemble Isifi Lokole, ISIFI being an acronym for “Institut du Savoir Ideologique pour la Formation des Idoles”.
In July 1975, Shungu Wembadio officially adopted the soon-to-be-well-known worldwide artist name Papa Wemba, the addition of “Papa” being an allusion to what were in fact rather awesome family responsibilities.
As the first son in a family where both his parents had been deceased since the 1960s, he assumed full responsibilities even at his tender age.
In 1979, Papa Wemba became the unofficial leader of the Sapeur (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes d’Élégance, roughly translated as “the Society of fashion Pace-setters and Elegant People,” or SAPE) which he promoted as a youth cult.
The Sapeur cult promoted high standards of personal cleanliness, hygiene and smart dress, to a whole generation of youth across Zaire.
‘‘When I say well groomed, well shaved, well perfumed, it’s a Characteristic that I am insisting on among the young’’, Pa wemba said.
He added that ‘‘I don’t care about their education, since education always comes first of all from the family’’
Pa Wemba rich repertoire of songs.
- Pauline (1970, Zaiko Langa Langa)
- L’Amoureux Decu (1972, Zaiko Langa Langa)
- Mete la Verite, Chouchouna (1973, Zaiko Langa Langa)
- Liwa ya Somo (1973–1974, Zaiko Langa Langa)
- Ainsi Va La Vie, Amazone (1975, Isifi Lokole)
- Matembele Bangi, Lisuma ya Zazu (1976, Yoka Lokole)
- Mere Superieure, Bokulaka, Mabele Mokonzi, Muana Molokai (1977)
- Princesse ya Senza, Fleur Betoko, Zonga-Zonga (1978)
- Anibo, Ata Nkale (1979)
- Levre Rose (1979, with Rochereau & Afrisa)
- Telegramme (1979, with Simaro Massiya & OK. Jazz)
- Analengo (1980), Amena (1980, duo with Pepe Kalle)
- Santa, Matebu (1980, first full album in Paris)
- Melina La Parisienne, Ufukutano (1981)
- Evenement, Rendre A Caesar (1982)
- Eliana, Bukavu Dawa (1983)
- Proclamation (1984, in Paris with Ngashie Niarchos)
- Destin ya Moto (1985)
- L’esclave, Papa Wemba – Au Japon (live) (1986)
- Papa Wemba Ekumani (1987)
- M’fono Yami (1989)
- Biloko ya Moto-Adidas Kiesse (1991)
- Le Voyageur (1992)
- Foridoles (1994)
- Emotion, Real World Records (1995)
- Pôle Position (1996)
- Wake-Up (1996, duo with Koffi Olomide)
- Nouvelle Ecriture (1997)
- Molokaï (1998)
- Nouvelle Ecriture dans L (1998)
- M’Zée Fula-Ngenge (1999)
- Muana Matebu(1999)
- A La Une (2000)
- Zea (2001)
- Bakala Dia Kuba (2001)
- Somo Trop (2003)
- Muana Molokaï (2004)
- Ba Zonkion (2005)
- Cheeky Summer time – Collab with Father J (2004)
- Attention L’artiste (2006)
- New Morning, album and DVD (2006)
- Notre Père Rumba (2010)
- Maître D’école (2014)
Source: Papa Wemba’s Official website.
**Continental Radio Station will devote the whole day playing Papa Wemba’s music as part of his tributes as the world of music mourns the fallen legend.