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Tears, tributes, as Papa Wemba’s body arrives home


He Was To Attend AFRIMA This Year, Says Dada

Emotions ran high on Thursday, at the Kinshasa International Airport, Democratic Republic of Congo, as the body of late African music legend Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, otherwise known as Papa Wemba, arrived into the capital, Kinshasa, from Ivory Coast.

Papa Wemba, who died on Sunday, after collapsing on stage during the FEMUA Urban Music Festival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, was celebrated with an all-night concert by his fans in Abidjan, before his body left for home. Most of the audiences were dressed in white as a mark of respect.

At a memorial service before the body left for home, Ivory Coast’s Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman reportedly said, “An artiste never dies… Papa Wemba is dead, and now even greater than before.”

Papa Wemba’s wife and his entire entourage were there, and his daughter read out a memorial prayer. Performers included Ivorian stars Magic System, Meiway, Espoir 2000, Zouglou Makers and members of his Viva La Musica group, who were on stage with him when he died.

On arrival in Kishasa, Papa Wemba’s coffin left the airport for a morgue, while he is due to be buried on Tuesday after lying in state in a stadium in Kinshasa, on Monday. The singer, who died aged 66, was considered one of Africa’s most influential musicians of his generation. He pioneered modern Congolese soukous music, which spread through the continent.

Many of Africa’s top musicians have paid tribute to Papa Wemba, including Cameroon’s Manu Dibango, who described him as the “voice of Africa.”

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA, in
partnership with the African Union Commission, AU, joined the rest of the world to mourn the death of the iconic musician, who gained prominence on the world stage, after fusing his Central African musical heritage with Western pop, rock and

Reacting to the death of Papa Wemba, President and Executive Producer, AFRIMA, Mr Mike Dada said, “At AFRIMA, we feel a sense of humongous loss since the announcement of the death of Papa Wemba. This is the time we at AFRIMA and Africa at large need him the most. He was one of the African music legends that had shown interest in attending AFRIMA in November this year,” he revealed.

Describing the late singer as a voice of Africa, an icon of African music and epitome of Africanness, Dada said his pride and commitment to African music and sense of dressing were part of the narratives of African culture.

“These are the African narratives we shared and are propagating across the world. The International Committee of AFRIMA recognises the role of African legends, dead or alive, in music, culture and entertainment. In 2014, the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was honoured with a Posthumous Legendary award for his contribution to the narratives of Africa, while Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa won the award at
the 2015 edition in Lagos, which coincided with the group’s 55th anniversary of telling the African story worldwide,” he said.

Papa Wemba pioneered a blend of African, Cuban and Western sounds, which became one of Africa’s most popular music styles. This earned him the nickname “King of Rhumba Rock”. Besides his musical influence, he popularised Sapeur fashion, an eccentric look with three-piece suits, shiny black leather shoes and flashy accessories.

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