Jules Shungu Webadio Pene Kikumba died a legend. Recognised and respected worldwide as one of the greatest singers. He certainly played a massive role in putting African music on the global stage. Affectionately known as Papa Wemba in the music industry, the Congolese born icon lived for music. Growing up he did not have to look too far for inspiration, as his mother was already involved in music as a professional mourner. A man who dedicated his life to entertaining, performing and inspiring others.
The world was never ready to say goodbye to the global icon.
After his success as singer, it was only fitting that his last moments was on stage, doing what he enjoyed and in-front of people who loved him dearly. During a live performance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, he suffered a seizure on stage and died a few hours later. His loyal fans who had come to dance to the tones of their favourite singer were not prepared to witness a giant of world music fall before their own eyes.
His performance at the Urban Musical Festival Anoumabo (FEMUA) was his final farewell to the world. Papa Wemba had music in his blood and was already turning heads from a young age with the Catholic Church choir where he started singing. He went on to join groups such as Zaiko Langa Langa in the 1960’s.
Despite being part of a popular group, which had Nyoka Longo Jossart and Bimi Ombale, he stood head and shoulders above the rest of his bandmates. As a result of his achievements with Zaiko Langa Langa, he was headhunted to join other music groups Isifi Lokole, and later Yoka Lokole before he founded his own band with the view of opening up the industry to unknown musician. Papa Wemba unearthed raw talent and gave many aspiring artists a platform to showcase their talent through his band Viva La Musica.
The likes of Prince Esperant, Jadot “Le Cambodgien” Sombele, Pepe Bipoli and Petit Aziza all became prominent musicians with the help of Papa Wemba. With over 40 years in the music industry, he was no longer just a talented singer but he became a mentor to many younger singers, who wanted to reach the same heights as him. After years touring and performing for different types of people worldwide, Papa Wemba never lost his identity.
He stayed true to his roots, not forgetting where he came from no matter how far he went. He even introduced his unique style of music to whole world. A fusion of traditional music, Caribbean rhythms, rock and soul, which was unheard of in the 1960’s. As his stature grew in the music industry, Papa Wemba relocated to Paris, France where he formed another band known as Nouvelle Generation. Not forgetting his people from his hometown, he also had a Kinshasa based band Nomvelle Ecriture.
His work ethic and love for music made him one of the most loved acts in different parts of the world. Held in high esteem in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, Papa Wemba made music for the entire world. He even earned respect from superstars such as Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel, who saw him as pioneer of a genre known as Europop, both artists also collaborated him. The King of Congolese Rumba will forever remain as one of the best singers to emerge out of Africa. His work gave the war-toned Republic of Congo a better world image.
He might be gone, but his music will definitely live forever in the hearts of many of his fans worldwide.