Papa Wemba, 1998

'Molokai' is Papa Wemba's third album with Real World, and also the name of his international band. This live studio performance from one of Africa's greatest stars is a collection of classic hits and newer songs from the late 90's, produced by John Leckie, reflecting that stage of Wemba's musical odyssey.

Molokai reaches far back into Wemba's childhood. Deeply influenced by his adopted mother's vocation as a pleureuse (professional mourner), Wemba here strips down to vocal basics, making his a cappella debut on 'Excuse Me'.

'Molokai' resonates with meanings for Papa Wemba. The word has a specific history rooted in his childhood years in Léopoldville, as Kinshasa used to be called. "Between the years of 1955 and 1960, the missionaries came and showed films in the open air," recounts Papa. "One day they showed us a film called 'Sur L'isle de Molokai'. The principal actor was a missionary called Father Damien who had as a mission to go to the Island of Molokai to heal lepers. After the projection of this film, the elders named our area 'Quartier Molokai'. It sounded pretty good, I think."

And the word became part of Wemba's personal musical mythology when in 1993, while performing as part of Peter Gabriel's 'Secret World Live' tour, he named his international band 'Molokai'.

Esclave (Slave)

What is wrong within me, son of Africa?
I grew up with the whip and with the fear of strangers
All my African Gods have been killed

Slave in America
I farmed the land and worked to build the railroad

Slave in Africa
I was chained up, then auctioned at the Tipo-Tipo market
The road was long to Zanzibar where I was sold
I was then brought to America
Where all my work was to benefit the white man
I ask myself the question
Where are all those who were chained up and brought to America?
I think there are brothers of the same family
I know they are in Guadeloupe, Martinique, New Caledonia
But we do not know each other

Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Maria Theresa
Freedom, me, son of Africa


  • Thirty-odd years in music and conspicuously the coolest man on the planet... Wemba's albums have never captured the full kinetic joy of his gigs. Until now. Time Out (UK)
  • For newcomers to the Wemba club, Molokai offers a glimpse of the artist's canon in a contemporary setting. ...recorded with startling clarity by British rock producer John Leckie...the album will remind longtime fans of the depth of his [Wemba's] songwriting and vocal talents. For newcomers to the Wemba club, Molokai offers a glimpse of the artist's canon in a contemporary setting.' Billboard (USA)
  • Precise phrasing, glorious swoops from mid to top range, breath-defying runs along the scale and a rolling rhythmic style full of richness. In short, as accomplished a singer as you’ll hear...The live studio performance gives a bright urgent feel... October 1998 Rock ‘n’ Reel (UK)
  • ...includes irresistible soukous ‘Sakana’; funky, brassy ‘Image’; ...soul-jazzy ‘Epelo’; and luxurious ballad ‘Awa Y’Okeyi. Dj Magazine (1998) (UK)
  • Uplifting, warm, postitive feelings that initially jump from the heart of Papa Wemba’s music ... this third album for Real World signifies his star is ascending throughout the musical world. September 1998 Spirit Magazine (UK)
  • ... John Leckie’s judiciously unobtrusive work ... memorable melodies and supported by imaginative, diverse and sympathetic arrangements .... Wemba distils the charged emotion that pervades ‘Molokai’, making it a recording of refreshing and affecting directness. September 1998 The Wire (UK)
  • ...avoiding overdubs to ripplingly organic effect... Molokai launch into the agile bounce of ‘Bakwetu’ ... palping the pace up for ‘M’Fono Yami’, injecting Latinisms on ‘Epelo’, the mainman’s voice hitting startling heights during ‘Awa Y’Okeyi’... Birmingham What’s On (1998) (UK)
  • ... that effortlessly soulful voice, wonderfully showcased. Daily Telegraph (UK)
  • ... the coolest man on the planet ... ...his chief priority is transmitting sheer bliss while moving your feet. Mojo (UK)