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Remembering Papa Wemba

Today we remember Papa Wemba one of the greatest artists to come out of Africa. His death last year was a blow to the African music industry and the fans of his music. His music and legacy lives on. May his soul rest in peace.



On the 24th of April last year, Africa lost a great gift to the music industry in Papa Wemba at the age of 66. Born Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba on June 14, 1949 in Lubefu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Papa Wemba was a Congolese singer and musician who played Congolese Rumba, Soukous, and Ndombolo. He was sometimes dubbed the “King of Rumba Rock” and he was an international style icon.

Like most musicians, Papa Wemba began singing in the church choir (Roman Catholic)  till 1960. He thereafter began composing music and singing professionally. His Father, a veteran of the second world war  did not want him to follow his mother’s path-a professional dirge singer.

Read: Africa mourns Papa Wemba: Tributes pour in for Congolese and African musical icon

We remember the artist through one of his greatest hits, chacun pour soi featuring Diamond Platinumz.


He was stylish and  wore designer clothing, something that earned him respect in the fashion world. At a rumba Papa Wemba wore either trendy suits with well-tailored jackets and rich in colour. Papa Wemba won a Kora Award for best artist at the first All Africa Music Awards ceremony in 1996. In 1987, his movie La Vie est Belle won the Georges Delerue prize at the Ghent International Film Festival.

Papa Wemba was posthumously conferred the highest national honor of the Democratic Republic of Congo after his body was returned to his birth country for his burial on May 4, 2016.