Legendary Congolese singer, Papa Wemba (real name Jules Kikumba) is dead. Aged 67, the musician reportedly slumped during a live performance at a music festival in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, early on Sunday morning.
A report from a private morgue in Abidjan where his body was taken, said Wemba was performing at the Anoumabo Urban Music Festival (FEMUA) when he collapsed on stage.
The sad event occurred barely a few days after the world lost another legendary music icon, Prince Rogers Nelson.
Prince, 57, was found dead in his Paisley Park residence in Chanhassen, Minnesota, last Thursday.
According to Papa Wemba’s spokesman, Henry Vokia, the singer suffered a seizure while performing on stage.
Vokia said, “Papa Wemba had sung the first and the second song. While singing the third song, he collapsed. I was following the concert live on television. I saw the dancers surround him. I thought it was a scene for the concert.
“But then I saw people from the Ivorian Red Cross pop up on stage. Suddenly, we cut the signal of the Ivorian television. I tried to call the manager of Papa Wemba abroad, Cornelie.
“He told me that Papa Wemba fell during a concert. I remember 10 minutes later, I was told that he is in intensive care. I called 30 minutes after, Cornelie told me that Papa Wemba had passed away.”
Footage from the live performance showed his back-up singers rushing over to help the stricken star in his last moments.
Before his death, Papa Wemba was a globally-acclaimed exponent of modern Congolese rhumba. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, he was considered one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.
Wemba’s music had influenced generations of Congolese and he was a living reminder of better times, especially the 1970s, when the Congo was still known as Zaire.
Having honed his skill under the supervision of his idol, Tabu Ley and his group, the Viva la Musica, he had proceeded in the 1980s to help nurture the Congo’s next music generation.
Apart from serving as a cultural bridge between his country’s past and the present, Papa Wemba will be remembered for his hit songs, such as, ‘Matambele Bangui’, ‘Sala Keba’ and ‘Mabele Makonzi.’
But he will be remembered more for being a firm believer in art for art’s sake and for constantly encouraging fellow musicians not to mix their art with politics.
Wemba was born in 1949 in the Kasai-Oriental province, Democratic Republic of Congo.
He became a pivotal player on the African continent’s music scene and lived almost all his life as a musician.
Wemba, who started his career at the age of 20, was said to have inherited his love of song from his mother, who was a professional wailing woman at funerals.
Report said the legend founded the label and group Viva la Musica in 1977 and would later create scintillating videos while pioneering emblems of world music.
He also discovered and trained generations of African musicians, like Koffi Olomide, and created, the Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant People.
Wemba, known as the King of Rumba Rock, won fans across Africa and Europe and worked with international stars, including former Genesis singer, Peter Gabriel.
Kinshasa rapper, Youssoupha, mourned the band leader in a tweet, saying he was the icon of Congolese culture and people’s lifestyle.
“Like my community, I am devastated by the death of Papa Wemba. This is a huge loss,” he added.
In 2004, Papa Wemba was convicted of people-smuggling in France and spent three months in prison.
The conviction related to a racket whereby illegal immigrants were taken to Europe, posing as members of his band.
A Belgian court convicted him of the same crime in 2012, handing down a fine of €22,000 (£17,143; $24,690) and suspended prison sentence of 15 months.
He was also once jailed in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) for allegedly having an affair with a general’s daughter.