Papa Wemba

Congo Dem. Rep.

The trajectory of Papa Wemba's musical career was long, varied and adventurous. Years of youthful apprenticeship during the '60s and '70s in the clubs of Kinshasa, Zaire, led to Wemba pioneering a new, aggressive afro-pop known as 'rhumba-rock'. He became one of the most enduring artists that recorded for Real World Records.

Papa Wemba released three albums for the label - Le Voyageur from 1992, Emotion from 1995 and 1998's Molokai a live studio recording of classic hits and new songs. He features on the compilations Voices of the Real World and Spirit of Africa. He also appeared on the Big Blue Ball album project.


Papa Wemba was one of the greatest vocalists Real World Records has worked with - not just from Africa but the world. It was an honour to have been involved in his illustrious career.

The release of Emotion was a real turning point for Papa Wemba and one of his most important albums. As an artist he was quiet and enigmatic but ready to embrace change; challenge the foundations of his music and seek new territories and new audiences.

Working with producer Stephen Hague and Lokua Kanza alongside Papa Wemba's fantastic band at Real World Studios was one of the most exciting sessions in the label's history.

"I had the great pleasure of working with Papa on his 'Emotion' album in 1995. I only knew of him as a singer when we started the project, but through a number of sessions at Real World, and studios in London and Paris, I got to know him as a man, and experience first hand his integrity, grace and humour. Always kind to those around him, but with just enough edge to remind you why he was the Papa, he was a true gentleman and a consummate musician. And man, could he sing!

He died on-stage… an artist to the last breath. Bonne soirée Monsieur Wemba… good luck at your next stop."
- Stephen Hague, producer of Emotion

Peter Gabriel describes Papa Wemba as, "such an extraordinary talent - music flowed out of him effortlessly and he could thrill people with one of the most beautiful and emotional voices I have ever heard. His music was full of gentle rhythms and joy, but the passion came from the power of his singing, which always carried a sadness, especially in his high voice, which I found really moving. I remember talking to Chris Blackwell about all the great voices of Africa and he said that Wemba was the greatest of them all... I feel very privileged to have known him and to have had the chance to write, record and tour with one of the world's greatest singers and musicians."

He is a great loss to the music world but will always be part of the DNA of Real World Records.