2016 started off on the wrong foot- January 14th saw the death of much loved, hugely talented and actor extraordinaire- Alan Rickman succumbing to cancer a mere four days after the news of David Bowie’s death. From then on it has felt like every week we are saying goodbye to yet another huge talent and hero. Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor of A Tribe Called Quest, Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird Fame, Keith Hefner of being the brother of Hugh Hefner fame, Prince superstar phenomenon fame and now to top it all off Papa Wemba.
It would not surprise me if you have not heard of the Congolese-Soukous musician as this just reinforces the sad state of African society at the moment- we look away for talent instead of looking right in front of us. Papa Wemba became an African sensation with his unique and fresh take on African music, blending African, Cuban and Western sounds and slowly creating one of the most popular music styles/genres.
A reason Wemba captured the heart of Big Bad Wolf is (truthfully) not because of his eclectic music ( which we have come to know and love) but rather as a style icon and fashion visionary within the Congolese fashion community. Creating a cultural movement: The Sapeurs which translates to The Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People ( a man after my own heart) Wemba realised the importance of dressing up and adhering to a certain dress code. This movement can be found all across the world including South Africa where every Fashion Week seems to produce more and more Sapuers. The Sapeurs dress in stark contrast with the environment they live in. Creating a sort of creolisation within the Congolese Fashion society, The Sapeurs ( a rich and diverse cultural movement) have much to thank Papa Wemba for.
Sadly a man with such artistic flair and musical talent has left us many years too soon and a vast vacuum is left in the spot where this great man once stood tall. RIP Papa Wemba you will forever be remembered as a tastemaker and true African musician.
Big Bad Wolf wishes his loved ones and all his fans across the world love and strength. As George S. Patton said ‘ It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank G-d that such men lived’.
Celebrate the brilliance of Papa Wemba by taking a look at some of his most famous hits below.