One of most exuberant, swashbuckling and famous musicians in Africa, Papa Wemba has died. The Congolese rumba music legend was performing at the FEMUA 2016 festival when he collapsed on stage in the Ivory Coast in the early hours of Sunday morning.
He died moments later and couldn’t get to the hospital for medical attention. The video embedded below is from the show in Ivory Coast, showing him slouched on stage behind a group of dancers, before they rushed to help him.
Papa Wemba is widely known in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the King of Rumba Rock. The artist, 66, was born Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba.
Papa Wemba came to limelight when he joined the music group Zaiko Langa Langa. He also gained success as a founding member both of Isifi Lokole and then Yoka Lokole. But Wemba became a worldwide success playing with his band Viva La Musica.
Fitting his flamboyant personality, Wemba won fans across Africa and Europe for not just his musical influence, but also for his fashion sense.
He worked with international stars including former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel. He played a key role in modernising Congolese rumba music, with the genre that emerged – soukous – making significant impact on the music across Africa
The stylish singer led the way with his own choice of costume, and succeeded in popularizing Sapeur fashion, an outlandish look with three-piece suits, shiny black leather shoes and flashy accessories. Papa Wemba, who is named a fashion icon, revealed that he was inspired by his parents, who loved dressing up on Sundays in the ’60s, “always well-put-together, always looking very smart.”
Though the cause of his death has not been established, the musician was said to have felt unwell and nauseous before the event in the early hours of Saturday morning but decided to perform anyway.
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Social media users have been paying tribute to the legend, noting that Africa has lost its major voice, an icon as well as a star.