His sound has influenced a range of African artists beyond his native Democratic Republic of Congo. Like other Congolese artists, the Soukous sound gained further pan-African status after the civil war that broke out in 1996. The conflict forced Congolese artists to go farther afield to earn a living and Soukous soon became popular from Lagos to Dar es Salaam.

Seun Kuti, son of another African music legend Fela Kuti, paid homage to Wemba on his Instagram page, describing him as “a King of African music.”

He was not just a leader in music, but also in fashion, popularizing the flamboyant “Sapeur” dandy style of expensive bright designer outfits, which has long since become a movement of “Les Sapeurs“ in DRC, Belgium, and France.

Papa Wemba led a colorful and, at times, controversial life, including a three-month stint in prison in France for human-smuggling in 2004 and at home in DRC for an affair with a general’s daughter.

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