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Hear Papa Wemba perform
Sala Keba

(One-minute sample)

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Papa Wemba
Papa Wemba sings soukous, a Congolese style that arose when African folklore collided with the Cuban rumba. In the 1920s, when cheap phonographs became available, Cuban music swept through West Africa. The rhythm, which was carried to the New World by African slaves, was instantly familiar, and after it came back home it was reinvented by a new generation of musicians. In the early 1970s, Zaiko Langa Langa introduced the western drums, western vocal rhythms, and a front line with up to six singers, using contemporary harmonies and traditional chants.

Papa Wemba was a founding member of Zaiko, and made a big impact on the public as both a singer and composer. In 1977 Wemba left Zaiko to start his own outfit, Viva La Musica, named after a Johnny Pacheco charanga tune. Viva introduced the lokole, a traditional drum made from a hollowed out tree trunk, and became known for their outrageous stage costumes. Wemba called his followers "La Societe des Ambienceurs et des Personnes d'Elegance" or La Sape and became as well known for his flamboyant stage outfits as he was for his music. In the early '90s, Wemba decided to take a more international approach and began exploring the rhythms of the African Diaspora, especially North American funk, rock, and R&B.

Related Dispatch
Map of Zaire
The Team treks over Zaire...
safe passage to Mali by flight
Relive it here!

"Sala Keba (Be Careful)" from Papa Wemba's latest CD, Emotion, stays close to his traditional sound. Wemba's soaring tenor, and a dreamy female choir, floats over a traditional rhythm that's been given a slight hip-hop lilt by drummer Andy Duncan. The words tell us to be ready for anything, because the journey on the sea of life is not a smooth one. "The world is like water in a canoe. You take some in today, tomorrow it gets all bailed out."




Putumayo Logo About Putumayo

This information and world music sample are compliments of Putumayo World Music. Putumayo’s mission is to introduce people to other cultures through music, and towards this end they have released dozens of CDs and cassettes featuring some of the best music from around the world.

Click here or a list of Putumayo's offerings, to hear more samples, or to buy.

 
 
 
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