By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2016-04-27

Papa Wemba

It was 5:30 am. Papa Wemba, the most anticipated man of the night, was the latest musician to take the stage during the 9th edition of the FEMUA music festival in Anoumabo. Coming on the stage after highly appreciated sets by Mawndoé artists Nguess Common Sense, Charlotte Dipanda, the French rapper Kerry James, and John Kiffy, Papa Wemba also won over the Anoumabo crowd. But at a moment when the spectators were spellbound after three very rousing numbers, there was a dramatic scene; the king of rumba collapsed on stage. There was some unease. But after several minutes, things took a serious turn. Security rushed to the artist’s aid. But the atmosphere was not reassuring. The lights were extinguished on stage and the artist was evacuated to the nearest hospital, where he was pronounced dead.


The news has hit like a thunderbolt; all his fans are astounded and can’t believe their ears. Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, universally known by his nickname "Papa Wemba," is no more. The Congolese musician left us so tragically on Sunday, April 24, at the age of 66, during a concert in front of thousands of fans and on a podium, just as he himself predicted on March10, on Serge Fattoh’s Afronight stage on TeleSud.


In Abidjan, emotions are very high. But the shock wave will go far beyond the Ivorian borders. Papa Wemba, we are told, was “an irreplaceable artist, a multi-talented man who could transcend generations and adapt to the times. He was an ambassador of Congo and Africa. "


"Papa Wemba wanted to die on stage, that's what he told me two weeks ago on the phone," recalled Salif Traoré, the leader of the Ivorian group Magic System, promoter of FEMUA. According to a journalist who interviewed him in his hotel room before the concert, "Papa Wemba showed signs of fatigue. He drank water at every sentence."


Papa Wemba left behind a prolific oeuvre, more than fifty albums produced between 1970 and 2014, the most recent being "Schoolmaster."  For the release of the latter Papa Wemba went on the stage of France 24, where he explained that he felt the need to return to the origins of Congolese rumba .



Report of the First Responders Team



More than 24 hours after the death of African music star Papa Wemba, a medical source said that the artist was a victim of cardiac arrest. An autopsy may be scheduled.


The Congolese artist, who took the stage on April 24 at dawn, around 5 am, was overcome about twenty minutes later. “It was a massive heart attack, where the whole heart contracts and suddenly stops beating. When he fell, he was already dead before touching the ground," said a medical source at the time of the tragedy.


Despite the efforts of medical staff, nothing could be done. In the ambulance, which drove the king of Congolese rumba to a private hospital in the Ivorian capital, several resuscitation attempts were in vain.


Although he regularly suffered from malaria and was frequently tired, the artist looked in good form before the show, according to relatives, but he had foregone his dinner in order to be lighter on his feet for his stage choreography. And during his brief presentation, Papa Wemba asked several times for the technicians to enhance the sound of music, which he thought sounded weak.


One thing we will remember here is that Africa has lost a monument to music. The king of rumba died with his weapon in his hand, and he died doing what he loved to do ... Music. At last hearing, FEMUA has organized a large musical tribute on Wednesday for the king of Congolese rumba. "A great artistic vigil to honor the illustrious departed will take place all night from Wednesday to Thursday," the general festival head has written, adding, "Over a hundred national and international artists--singers and musicians--will perform on the stage of this 21-hour vigil until dawn."