Papa Wemba, often called the King of Rhumba Rock, was born in Kasai, Zaire. Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba first made his mark in 1970 in Kinshasa, where he was a singer, composer, and co-founder of the great youth group Zaiko Langa Langa. In 1974 he left to form his own band, Isife Lokole, and then in '76 began Viva La Musica.Read More
Hoping to reach a wider audience he ended up in Paris in the early '80s, bringing with him the entire line-up of Viva La Musica. Wemba's musical vision went beyond the capabilities of his seasoned Zairen rhumba rockers as he began to experiment with a wide range of eclectic sounds.
Wemba's quite a stylish fellow, a sapeur, an aficionado of fashionable, well-designed clothing. His trendy suits with big jacket, and baggy, though tailored pants, are a strange mix of Africa, Paris, and the American zoot suit. A Soukous show is always a fashion event, and Wemba is a man of great style and taste.
While the celebrated musical form known as "Congolese rumba" first took the Black Continent by storm in the fifties, this music uncannily retains its youthful visage today, as if face-lifted by some timelessly hip plastic surgeons of African popular dance music. Among the "surgeons" (ought we say sorcerers ?) who have helped the rumba protect its see- mingly eternal youth, Papa Wemba is surely one of the most inspired and influential. This man is everything we love in the Congolese man, with that typical wry combination of wit, humor, and sheer talent! What a proud son of Kinshasa, a temple of intelligence - and home to the most colorful and vivid French in the entire French-speaking world! The Origins of a Vocation to Sing Papa Wemba (né Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba) was born in the southern Congo region of the Kasaï River, as the eldest child in his family, which settled in Leopoldville, the capital of the Belgian Congo, shortly after his birth. Wemba's father had fought in the Belgian army during the Second World War, and later become a hunter. Wemba's mother was a professional mourner in traditional Congolese funerals, where Wemba had his initiation in public singing. Though the passion for music born of those encounters never abated in Wemba, his father wanted to bar him from a musi-
cal career, having planned for his son a different career as a lawyer or journalist. When Wemba's father died in 1966 the only real obstacle between Wemba and his musical ambitions disappeared. Wemba began to sing in his parish church, where he experimented with the singular shrill voice which still characterizes his style.
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