- As family concludes plan for final burial rites Tuesday
The International Committee of the All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA, and the African Union Commission, AU, have joined the African music community as well as family of late Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba a.k.a. Papa Wemba in mourning.
An iconic musician of no lean status, Papa Wemba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo died in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, during the FEMUA urban music festival on Sunday April 24. He was 66.
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 3.0 in November this year. He was a voice of Africa, an icon of African music and epitome of ‘Africanness’. 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.”
Speaking further, Dada said, “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.”
Papa Wemba was considered an African icon and world music star after fusing his Central African musical heritage with Western pop, rock and rap.
He pioneered a blend of African, Cuban and Western sounds, which became one of the continent’s most popular music styles. This earned him the nickname, “King of Rhumba Rock”.
Besides his musical influence, Wemba popularised Sapeur fashion, an eccentric look with three-piece suits, shiny black leather shoes and flashy accessories.
His death has no doubt thrown not only his family, but the African music and arts community, and lovers of African culture and arts into mourning.
It is therefore no surprise that AFRIMA and its major partners, the AU have expressed such feelings of loss.
In partnership with the African Union Commission, AFRIMA is a project developed to celebrate, reward and showcase the rich musical culture of Africa, stimulate conversations among Africans and between Africa and the rest of the world about the great potentials and values of African culture and artistic heritage, for the purpose of creating jobs, reducing poverty, and calling attention of world leaders to Africa as well as promoting the positive image of Africa to the world.
Meanwhile, Papa Wemba’s body arrived back in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday after his death on Sunday in Ivory Coast, with hundreds of people waiting outside Kinshasa’s airport for the body’s arrival.
He is due to be buried on Tuesday after lying in state in a stadium in DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, on Monday.
An all-night concert was held in his honour in Abidjan, the city where he collapsed and died on stage, just as several government officials and diplomats graced the memorial service for the singer at the airport before the body was taken to a morgue.
Also, 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”.
Ivory Coast’s Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman said at a memorial service before the body left that, “an artist never dies… Papa Wemba is dead, and now [he is] even greater than before.’
According to the BBC’s Tamasin Ford in Abidjan, most of the audience at the all-night concert were dressed in white as a mark of respect.
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.