Papa Wemba, also known as "the king of Congolese rumba," has died. The 66-year-old icon of rumba rock collapsed onstage during a concert in Ivory Coast.
The Democratic Republic of Congo's Culture Minister, Baudouin Banza Mukalay, confirmed Papa Wemba's death on Sunday, describing it as a "great loss for the country and all of Africa."
The singer died at a concert in the Ivory Coast on Saturday night. Footage showed performers from his troupe rushing to his side as he fell down. The cause of his collapse was not immediately known and he died before reaching the hospital, a spokesman for the Ivosep morgue in Abidjan told journalists.
Papa Wemba was born Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba in 1949. Known as the "king of rumba rock," the star had fans in Africa and Europe. He also worked with former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel.
Wemba struck fame in 1969, when he founded the group Zaiko Langa Langa. The group quickly gained a lot of fans and began experimenting with rumba sounds. Wemba soon reached superstar status with a special style of Congolese dance music called "soukous" that became popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
The star was also a popular style icon and fancied expensive designer clothes. "When I went to Belgium for the first time in 1977, I discovered big fashion. Not European, but Japanese. Every time when I came back to Zaire (present day Democratic Republic of Congo), I would present my new clothes on television. The youth were crazy for it," Wemba told DW in a past interview.
As the political situation became more and more difficult in the former Zaire, Wemba began moving his act to Paris and won international acclaim for his modern rendition of African songs. "What I create is not Congolese music anymore, it's not even African music… it's just simply music," Wemba said.
mg/jiw (AP, Reuters, dpa)