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 say “my 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.
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).
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).
“I 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).
About 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).