Papa Wemba: Singing for a Brighter Congo

For the youth of the DRC, Papa Wemba was a model of free expression and defiance in the face of illegitimate power.

As a young man Papa Wemba left his rural home in central Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the city of Kinshasa to pursue his musical career. In 1969 he joined Zaiko Langa Langa, becoming part of a lineup that did not last long but whose members produced some of the country's most provocative music for years after their break-up. In the 1970s, during then-president Mobutu's "authenticité" campaign, which called for a revival of African roots and a rejection of all things Western, Wemba grew famous for rebelling against these strictures and dressing in avant-garde European fashion. In 1977 he formed a new group called Viva la Musica, membership in which has been a rite of passage for many of the country's most talented young artists. Throughout his career Papa Wemba has been an agent of free expression. Cultures of Resistance interviewed the legendary singer to talk about his music, the future of his country’s politics, and the tensions between politicians and artists in Africa.

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Papa Wemba: Singing for a Brighter Congo