Papa Wemba in his Own Words

Papa Wemba
Papa Wemba

Papa Wemba was not only a star, a musician, and artist, but he was also a father, a husband, and a son. He had been married to his wife, Marie-Rose ‘Amazone’ Luzolo, for almost 50 years; they had met when he was 20, and she was 14. They had 6 children. In this world, very few celebrities have been married to only one person for almost 50 years.

Here are a few words of Papa Wemba, le rossignol (the nightingale), the King of Rumba and SAPE.

About his mother who was a professional ‘wailing woman’: “My mother was my first teacher and my first public. … I grew up with my mother’s melancholic singing. … When I will sing, she will saymy son, block here, and now project your voice“… when I did well, she will clap for me“(source: Tv5 – Africanité). For his mother, he composed Mama and Maria Valencia.

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Papa Wemba’s last album ‘Maitre d’Ecole’

His daughter, Victoire, said that after Papa Wemba was convicted by the Belgian justice, “Dad prayed a lot. Dad was a champion, and he was victorious“(source: TV5 – Africanité).

About his wife, he said: “For my first trip to Japan, I said I will never go alone… my first long trip,… 13h long…, I brought my tender spouse and one of my children to experience it with me” (source: RFI- Dernière interview avec Claudy Siar). For his wife, he sang 4 min 29 secondes d’adoration, Phrase, and Ma Rosa.

He was a compassionate being: during one of his concert, he asked the audience for one minute of silence for one of his band members, Patrick Bebey, who had lost his father the week before (source: TV5- Edition spéciale – Hommage Papa Wemba).

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Papa Wemba’s album ‘Emotion’

He was a generous soul: a neighbor in Matonge said: « Je me souviens qu’une fois, je l’ai juste salué en passant. Il m’a rétorqué. Albert pourquoi tu fais le pied. Je lui ai expliqué que mon véhicule était tombé en panne. Il m’a donné à l’instant même l’argent que j’avais besoin pour réparer ma voiture. » “I remember that one time, I just greeted him [Papa Wemba] in passing. He asked me. Albert, why are you walking. I told him that my car was broken. Instantly, he gave me to money to fix my car.” (source: Radio Okapi).

Papa Wemba was known for his legendary humility: «  A l’annonce d’un cas de décès à Matonge et surtout dans notre avenue ici Kandakanda, il s’arrangeait toujours pour envoyer sa contribution lorsqu’il n’était pas au pays. Dans les cas où le décès intervenait et qu’il se trouvait sur place à Kinshasa, il venait personnellement conduire la quête pour soutenir la famille éprouvée. Bien sûr, sa contribution était toujours largement au-dessus par rapport à ce que nous autres pouvions bien volontiers donner » témoigne Francine, une voisine de Papa Wemba à Matonge. “At the announce of a death in Matonge, and particularly on our avenue here in Kandakanda, he always made sure to send in his contribution when he was outside the country. When the announcement happened and he was in Kinshasa, he personally came to lead the quest for people’s contribution to support the bereaved family. Of course, his contribution was way bigger than anything we could gladly contribute” (source: Radio Okapi).

Papa Wemba9I was lucky to cross all the oceans with my voice.” … “I was lucky to belong to a country with a musical genre such as Rumba.”

Papa Wemba defined Rumba as “the maternity of the African music” (source: TV5 – Africanité).

He said: “I am Rumba, it is thanks to Rumba that I have made a name for myself in the world” (source: TV5 – Africanité, RFI- Dernière interview avec Claudy Siar).

About la SAPE and his influence around the world: “Today even great politicians sapent (are dandy)… Before Mr. Obama steps out, he first takes a look in his mirror to make sure that he looks good… La SAPE is international“(source: TV5 – Africanité).

About SAPE: “La vie est trop courte pour s’habiller triste. [Life is too short to dress sadly]” (source: Oeil d’Afrique).

Papa Wemba6About leading: “Il ne faut pas tenir la queue, il faut être devant le peloton.” [Don’t be at the back of the queue, You must lead the pack.] (source: RFI- Dernière interview avec Claudy Siar).

About retirement: “Moi, Papa Wemba, N-O-N, jamais je ne parlerais de retraite. A moins que le Bon Dieu lui-même ne me dise ‘ta voix n’y est plus’… Tant que je serais un homme debout, tant j’aurais toujours ma belle voix, je serais toujours sur scène.” [I, Papa Wemba, N-O, I will never talk of retirement. Unless God says ‘your voice is no longer there’… as long as I will still stand, as long as I still have my beautiful voice, I will always be on stage.](source: RFI- Dernière interview avec Claudy Siar).

And lastly about his gift, his voice, and God: “My voice is my gift. … I have the grace of God, God loves me very much, and He always puts His hand on me” (source: RFI- Dernière interview avec Claudy Siar).

Papa Wemba: Africa’s Planetary Star

Papa Wemba1Very few in this world have had a chance to ‘depart’ while doing something they loved, while in the midst of doing something they’ve always been passionate about. Papa Wemba’s departure was sudden, but it was in the midst of doing what he loved. This man had been at the forefront of African music for over 40 years. He was truly an African global star. He loved Rumba and introduced the world to the Rumba Rock. Japanese fans created bands and sang in Lingala in Japan, thanks to Papa Wemba’s touring the country. Papa Wemba toured the United States with artists such as Peter Gabriel. People in Colombia and in other countries across the world danced to the rhythm of Papa Wemba. He was truly a global star, and Africa just lost a legend.

Papa Wemba: The King of Rumba and King of La SAPE

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Papa Wemba

In high school, while on our way to school, my father would play Papa Wemba‘s album in the car: Emotion. Rightfully titled ‘Emotion‘, Wemba’s album featured a whole range of emotions which added to his unique ‘Rooster-like‘ voice to  make me, as a teenager, feel those emotions, and go to school happy. Try it… listen to the up-beat Yolele, or Fafafa-fa, Sala Keba, or Awa Y’ Okeyi,  … and tell me how you feel, truly, because Papa Wemba rocked my childhood.

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The album ‘Emotion’ by Papa Wemba

So when I learnt that this great man, Papa Wemba, the one who had accompanied me with his voice to school every day, this man who had made me so proud of music, Congolese music, African music, this flamboyant stylish man who had introduced the world to SAPE, the King of Congolese Rumba, this man whose words I still quote “Y a pas match, Kaokokokorobo” had collapsed on stage and was no longer… I was devastated. Oh Papa Wemba, I thought you were going to ride with my kids to school, the way you did with me…. I thought I would always dance to the rhythm of O’Koningana,…Ye te oh, Wake Up, …

When life was hard, I would hum to the tune of your song in the movie ” La Vie est Belle” and instantly life became beautiful again. And ‘Mama‘ was just a loving song to a mother. When I felt lost, I would sing “Show me the way.”

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The movie ‘La Vie est Belle’ starring Papa Wemba

Yes… Papa Wemba was truly a genius. He was born Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba in June 1949 in Lubefu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His love of music can be attributed to his mother, who was a professional “wailing woman” at funerals. Mixing traditional African music with Western rock, he and his successive bands – Zaiko Langa LangaIsifi Lokole, Yoka Lokole, and Viva la Musica – enjoyed hit after hit, including L’Esclave, Maria Valencia, Analengo, and Le Voyageur. He shaped Congolese music in the 1970s -90s, he made Soukous the most popular sound across Africa, and attracted international music figures like Peter Gabriel. I am not sure if there is a great African star he had not sung or collaborated with: from Brenda Fassie, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Pepe Kalle, Lokua Kanza, Barbara Kanam, Manu Dibango, Koffi Olomidé, Bisso Na Bisso, JB Mpiana, Angélique Kidjo, Salif Keïta, Alpha Blondy, Singuila, to Youssou N’dour, and countless others. He also collaborated with the great diva Aretha Franklin. He was a talented man, and he also sought to reveal young talents. He loved to share his gift, his voice, with all.

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Papa Wemba, the King of Sape

So I was sad… But then I realized that Papa Wemba had trained generations of musicians, had inspired numerous people, sang his lungs out for so many of us… then I realized that his flamboyant spirit lives on. His music keeps on… The dress style he created, la SAPE,  still goes on. And yes, I will keep playing Yolele. So is Papa Wemba really gone? Is this great African baobab really gone? No, he has just changed his postal address. However, his music stays with us, and will lead some of us to school or work… always.



How Malawi Technology is teaching UK Children

This is a continuation to the previous post, Technology helping students in Malawi, where the technology used to teach children in Malawi, is helping children in the  United Kingdom (UK). Educators found out that the apps used to teach primary school children in Malawi was helpful to improve the education of children in the UK. Talk about globalization!

Technology helping students in Malawi

I really like the way technology is revolutionizing lives across the globe. Today, we will talk about education in Malawi. Actually, this could be any school in many African countries, where teachers very often have 60-80 students in their classrooms. So it is hard to control the students, and let’s face it, it is hard for the teacher to assess their students’ learning and to grade homework. The video below shows how technology is helping teachers in Malawi ensure proper learning of English, mathematics, and Chichewa. Enjoy!

The Black People of Mexico

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Afro-Mexican cowboy (Source: BBC)

I found this article on the BBC this week about the Afro-Mexican people, or Black people of Mexico, and thought of reposting parts of it. For the full article, go to: the BBC .


More than a million people in Mexico are descended from African slaves and identify as “black“, “dark” or “Afro-Mexican” even if they don’t look black. But beyond the southern state of Oaxaca they are little-known and the community’s leaders are now warning of possible radical steps to achieve official recognition.

[…] Black Mexicans have been living in the Costa Chica area, on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, since their ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves in the 16th Century.

Colonial Spanish cattle ranchers often used them as foremen, in charge of indigenous Mexican workers who were not used to animals the size of cows or horses.

The state of Oaxaca (Source: BBC)

But outside the Costa Chica area there is little awareness of their existence.  

An interim census in 2015 indicated a black population of 1.4 million, or 1.2% of the Mexican population. Even in Oaxaca state they only account for 5% of the total. By comparison, indigenous peoples made up nearly 10% of Mexico’s population, as measured in the 2010 census. The appearance of those who identify as black Mexicans varies considerably. Some are hard to distinguish from indigenous Mexicans.

[…] But there is frustration here that the Afro-Mexicans are not more widely known in Mexico and are not officially recognised as a minority by the Mexican government.

According to Humberto Hebert Silva Silva, head of the Bureau for Afro-Mexican Affairs in Oaxaca, this is because Afro-Mexicans speak Spanish, like most other Mexicans – they do not have their own language.

Afro-Mexican musical instruments: quijada and bote (BBC)

When we go and ask [for recognition as a minority], they come up with excuses, or say that we don’t have an indigenous mother tongue. Language is the real criterion,” he says.We are being discriminated against.”

If Afro-Mexicans were classified as a minority they would receive extra funding for promotion of their culture and public health programs.

But activists including Israel Reyes, a teacher, want more than money, it’s also important to them that the existence of Afro-Mexicans is recognized at the level of the Mexican state.

[…] “The story of the black population has been ignored and erased from history.”

The Origin of the Milky Way

Milky WayA strong-willed girl became so angry when her mother would not give her any of a delicious roasted root, that, she grabbed the roasting roots from the fire and threw the roots and ashes into the sky, where the red and white roots now glow as red and white stars, and the ashes are the Milky Way.  And there the road is to this day.  Some people call it the Milky Way; some call it the Stars’ Road, but no matter what you call it, it is the path made by a young girl many, many years ago, who threw the bright sparks of her fire high up into the sky to make a road in the darkness.

This is a South African tale about the origin of the Milky Way, from the Road Travel Africa.

Blague Africaine: La Sauce et le Riz / African Joke: Sauce and Rice

sauce_riz2C’est l’histoire d’un évangéliste dans un village Bété en Côte d’Ivoire.

Il dit :JESUS n’aime pas la SORC-E -LE-RIE“.

En appuyant sur le mot sorcellerie, le traducteur dit ceci en Bété :Jésus n’aime pas la sauce et le riz.”

La foule répondhin !C’est à koz de ça dans ses films, c’est pain seulement il mange !


bread1It is the story of an evangelist in a Bété village in Côte d’Ivoire.

He says:JESUS does not like SOR-CE-RY“.

Putting an emphasis on the word sorcery, the translator says in Bete:Jesus does not like sauce’n rice.”

The crowd respondsAh ! That is why in his movies, he only eats bread!”

Proverbe sur la Protection du Plus Faible / Proverb on Protection of the Weakest

strength3La jambe est intelligente: elle met l’os devant et la chair derriere (Proverbe Bahumbu – République Démocratique du Congo). – Le plus fort protège le plus faible.

The leg is intelligent: it puts the bone in the front, and the flesh behind (Bahumbu proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo).- The strongest protects the weakest.