Papa Wemba dead at the age 66

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The influential Congolese musician died during a concert.

The musician fell ill in the early hours of Saturday morning. The cause of his death has not been established.

He died before he could be brought to hospital, a spokesman for the Ivosep morgue in Abidjan told Reuters news agency.

Born in 1949, Wemba, whose real name was Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, began his singing career in religious choirs.

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Influence on fashion

Wemba was also a style icon, the driving force behind the cultural movement the Sapeurs, whose young men spend vast amounts on designer clothes.

Listen to any popular Congolese music and you’ll hear the word “Sape” over and over again. For a while the word was nothing more than lyric to a French-African song with amazing waist twisting beats that made you go crazy on the dance floor. However, La Sape (local slang) or Sapeur, is far beyond just a lyric.  In Papa Wemba words: “The Sapeur cult promoted high standards of personal cleanliness, hygiene and smart dress, to a whole generation of youth across Zaire.”

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Derived from the ‘Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes/Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance, The word ‘sape’ in French also means “to dress with elegance and style”. This cultural movement that some would argue was sparked by Congolese musician Papa Wemba in the 1960s and 1970s.

He helped modernise Congolese rumba music, with the genre that emerged – soukous – influencing music across Africa.

Together with his bands Zaiko Langa Langa, Isifi and Viva La Musica, he racked up hit after hit, including L’Esclave and Le Voyageur.

He appeared in two feature films, Life Is Beautiful (1987) and Wild Games (1997).

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