The world is still reeling from the shock of Papa Wemba’s sudden death, after he dramatically collapsed at a Femua Festival concert in Cote d’Ivoire last Saturday night and was later pronounced dead.
His passing has even drawn comparisons to the death of another music legend King Kester Emeneya who died in February 2014, after defying orders from his doctors to take a break from music after he underwent a throat operation.
A source from the Democratic Republic of Congo revealed that prior to Papa Wemba’s last concert he had been in a coma for two weeks at a hospital in Paris.
“He was previously admitted to one of the best hospitals in Paris and upon discharge was advised by the doctors to take a break from music until further notice- something he seemed to take for granted,” the source added.
Papa Wemba’s widow, Mama-Marie Lozolo Amazone, flew to Abidjan on Monday morning, accompanied by family members and government officials in preparation to have his body transported back to DRC.
Yesterday, through the assistance of the DRC and Abidjan government, Wemba’s body was flown on a chartered plane to Ngaliema mortuary in Kinshasa. A post mortem was conducted in-flight to establish the cause of his death. The results will strictly be revealed to family members.
Speaking exclusively to The Standard a source revealed that come Monday morning, Papa Wemba’s body will be taken to Kamanyola national stadium popularly known as the Martyrs of Pentecost Stadium or Stade des Martyrs located in Lingwala, Kinshasa for prayers, public viewing and mourning until Tuesday.
Mourners from all walks of life are expected to grace the occasion including Congolese government officials, dignitaries, musicians, fans, family and friends.
His body will remain at the stadium for the whole day and night after which he will be laid to rest at his Molokai home, in Kivu.
Unlike prominent Congolese musicians who have been buried at Gombe cemetery situated within La Gombe municipality in the Lukunga district, Kinshasa, Wemba’s wish was to be buried at his Molokai home.
He becomes the first prominent Congolese musician to break away from this tradition. A monument similar to that of the late Franco Luambo Makiadi will be built in his honour days after his burial.
Speaking to this writer on phone from DRC, Koffi Olomide, who was mentored by Papa Wemba during his time at Viva la Musica, said that renowned musicians have been gathering at Papa Wemba’s residence in Kinsasha led by Kiamuangana Mateta Verkys.
According to Wemba’s protégé, Reddy Amisi, the musician who spent most of his time in Kinshasa after being discharged from the Paris hospital, was in perfect form and had supporting medical reports from the doctors that indicated the same.
“Prior to his death Wemba was in the process of preparing for a grand concert scheduled for May 20, at a hotel in Kinshasa,” he says adding that despite this Papa Wemba often talked about “molière” the French word for “death”.
“I am not afraid to die on stage,” he often told his band members and close friends.
To Reddy, this was a warning; as if he was saying that as much as he was fine for the moment, no one knew what was going to happen in a few days.
And that is not all. During his last interview conducted live at an Abidjan television in French, just hours before his fateful show, Wemba made some surprising comments.
“I want to assure my fans that I am fine and thank them for their care and support. It is high time African people and musicians unite and embrace love for one another,” said the musician whose latest MP3 album titled ‘Papa Wemba (Nouvelle) Mwalimu’ also has a song titled ‘The Hour Has Come’.
During one of his final conversations with a close confidant as they were having lunch together, Wemba questioned why artistes retired instead of following their hearts’ desires to the very end regardless of what doctors said.
When Wemba took to stage that night, he looked tired and detached like a troubled man. But for the next one hour, he proceeded to give a solid performance backed by a young group of instrumentalists and dancers.
At intervals he would take a rest and allow the energetic band to go on. During these breaks he would sit by the side of the stage sipping from a bottle of water before tragedy struck fifteen minutes after, while in the process of singing his third song.
Wemba fainted behind his dancers. At first the musicians did not appreciate the scale of what had happened and continued to play a few seconds before trying to rescue him. Worse still, the evacuation of the artist by the Red Cross was hindered by the crowds. He was finally pronounced dead at a clinic within the Hotel Dieu of Abidjan, a few hours after being admitted.
Following his demise, the closing concert of this great annual cultural event planned in Korhogo, was cancelled.