Papa Wemba

Released 01 June 1998

  1. Excuse Me
  2. Zero
  3. Bekwetu
  4. Image
  5. If The Children Cry
  6. Sakana
  7. Shofele
  8. M'Fono Yami
  9. Epelo
  10. Awa Y'Okeyi
  11. Esclave

Liner notes

‘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’.

Photo credit: Loïc Quentin


  • The coolest man on the planet. His chief priority is transmitting sheer bliss while moving your feet. MOJO (UK)
  • That effortlessly soulful voice, wonderfully showcased. The Daily Telegraph (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)
  • 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)


  • Emotion

    Papa Wemba

    Released 13 March 1995

    Fresh and daring as ever, this world-class singer continues his ascendancy to global notoriety with total emotional impact. A brilliant blast of pop and dance rhythms make up the brightest, most accessible album of Papa Wemba’s career.
  • Mariama

    Pape & Cheikh

    Released 21 October 2002

    Mariama is a powerful and extraordinarily coherent slice of Africa - traditional and modern. Full of driving, funky rhythm and poignant, yearning melody, it combines a deep feeling for the enduring themes of African culture with an understanding of all the elements necessary to create a truly universal modern song.

Further reading

Real World music featured on BBC Two’s Mediterranean with Simon Reeve

Simon Reeve embarks on a journey around the Mediterranean, soundtracked by music from Real World.

A musical showcase at the top of the world

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New Dawn: Track by Track

Producer Søren Kjær Jensen looks at the songs on renowned Somalian ensemble Waaberi's 1997 album.

The incredible story of 9Bach and the boy who lived with dogs

'Ifan' tells the story of Ivan Mishukov, the boy who lived with dogs in the streets of Moscow.