Papa Wemba & Viva La Musica - The first 20 years
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Papa Wemba & Viva La Musica
The First Twenty Years
Stern's (

cd cover The title of this retrospective says it all, covering the career of Congolese crooner Papa Wemba after his departure from the legendary Zaiko Langa Langa in 1974 and the foundation of Viva La Musica in 1977. Wemba is otherwise known for being the "Pope of the Sapeurs," those trendy Congolese devoted to European high fashion. More recently, he was under investigation in Belgium and France for smuggling immigrants into those countries.

This album recalls happier times for Wemba, and is a fine introduction to Wemba in particular and contemporary Congolese music more generally. The collection also moves from Viva La Musica's first hit, "Mère Supérieure," a fictional critique of mothers critical of 'low-class' musicians, to 1997's ode to Wemba's own mother, "Mama." The difference between the two discs is rather sharp. Viva La Musica move from chugging rumba rhythms pounded out on drum kits with lots of bright snare drum and cymbal on disc one, while on the second disc the rhythm section takes a back seat to more polished electronic sounds and more pronounced vocals. Though intended for dancing, the music, especially on the first disc, has a soothing, mesmerizing quality that makes for pleasant listening anytime. - Craig Tower

CD available from cdRoots

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