ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, April 25 (UPI) — World music pioneer Papa Wemba has died after collapsing on stage during a concert. He was 66.
The Congolese music star was performing FEMUA 2016 festival in the West African country of Ivory Coast late Saturday when he dropped to the floor mid-song. Dancers immediately came to his aid.
He was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. The cause of death is not known.
Born Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, he began singing in his church choir before breaking through with his first band Zaiko Langa Langa in 1969.
Over a five-decade career, his fusing of Latin and African dance styles led him to be known as the “King of Congolese Rumba” and was an inspiration to a generation of musicians.
Over time, he worked with some of the most respected music stars in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour, and played packed stadiums around the world, including the United States.
But in 2004, Wemba was convicted of smuggling people into France when a large entourage from the Democratic Republic of the Congo joined him, claiming to be band members. He maintained his innocence and was eventually given a mostly suspended sentence.
“It is a great loss for Congo and for all of Africa. He was a self-made man, a role model for Congolese youth.” said Baudouin Banza Mukalay, the culture minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
N’dour honored his friend on Twitter, posting a video of them performing together, with the tag: “Heavy heart, heavy, really heavy. Rest in peace the artist.”