With his dynamic vocals and flamboyant personality, Papa Wemba (born Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba) played an essential role in the evolution of Central African music. Respectfully known as "the King of Rhumba," Wemba successfully fused African traditions with Western pop and rock influences. A co-founder of Zaiko Langa Langa in 1970, he went on to international attention as the leader of Isife Lokole in 1974 and Viva la Musica after 1976. Born in the Kinshasa region of what was then the Belgian Congo and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Wemba was taught that he was descended from a long line of BaTetela warrior chieftains. His mother, a professional mourner who sang at funeral wakes, had a profound influence on his singing. He recalled in a late-'90s interview, "If mother was still alive, I would be rich in words and rich ...
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