Long a favorite among Afro-pop aficionados, Zairean expatriate Papa Wemba made a major push for worldwide recognition with this 1995 release. At the time a resident of Paris, the artist enlisted the aid of Brit-pop producer Stephen Hague (New Order, Pet Shop Boys) in hopes of making Emotion a crossover success, a move that alienated some purist fans of more traditional African sounds. But in mixing his unique brand of African soukous with various Western influences, Papa Wemba took a bold step into the international pop market already populated by Senegalese singing sensations Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal, whose albums enjoyed the type of commercial success few world music releases can even aspire to. Under Hague's guidance, Papa Wemba's majestic vocals shine in the spotlight, flowing smoothly over each universally accessible, groove-laden track like the sweetest honey. By the time he reaches an immensely soulful cover of Otis Redding's "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," it's obvious that Papa Wemba was destined to be a star.
by Bret Love