Papa Wemba photo from 'Pole Position' album sleeve

AfricaSounds Presents: 'Congo Kinshasa Updates'

The Beat - Article #1 - Volume 15 No. 3 – 1996

"Et Que Viva la Musica!"

By Martin Sinnock

Editors note: All photos copyright Martin Sinnock except for specific album sleeve photos and flyers as shown.  All are from Martin Sinnock's music archive.

Presenting a different perspective on Rumba Lingala Martin Sinnock, journalist, radio presenter and Congolese music specialist, updates us on the music to which the Congolese are currently listening.  In this first part of an ongoing project he looks at the recent recorded output of Papa Wemba and Viva la Musica.  This feature has been published in the highly recommended world music print publication The Beat (


The piece is by Barly Baruti and is taken from his book "Papa Wemba - Viva la Musica" - textes et dessins: Barly Baruti
(Afrique Editions, Kinshasa 1987) - from the archive of Martin Sinnock

There is a common misapprehension among lovers of global music that the music of the Congo (formerly Zaïre) is represented primarily by artists and bands like Kanda Bongo Man, Diblo & Matchatcha, Soukous Stars, Aurlus Mabele & Loketo, Quatre Etoiles, and a host of other Paris based outfits.  While most of these performers do have respectable musical pedigrees and indeed have created significant impact within the pan-African music business it would be entirely wrong to imagine that they are considered particularly relevant within their own culture.  This short article will look at the real Rumba Lingala, as heard in countless bars and record shacks throughout the Congo and in particular the Matonge district of Kinshasa and in the new diasporatic Congolese capitals of Paris, Bruxelles, London, and even in Germany and Switzerland, and wherever else “les Zazas” have chosen to settle.  

Some of the names dealt with will be familiar for artists like Zaïko Langa Langa, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide and Wenge Musica have all made impressions in the “global” marketplace.  Part of the intention of this series of articles is to differentiate between the real music of the Congo (we’ll refer to it as Rumba Lingala) as opposed to the rather formulaic and commercial Paris-based music that is generally (and rather erroneously) called Soukous.  Some artists like to keep a foot in both camps and often there is a thin dividing line between the two styles.  Often it is a simple case of commerciality, but as in all music forms it is not always the best-known and most successful artists who produce the most interesting or valid music.


Martin Sinnock in 1996


These articles will look at the recent releases and histories of some of the more important Rumba Lingala artists.  It should be noted that where I have quoted release dates for recordings the date used is only an approximation of the year of arrival on the marketplace.  Musicians enter studios and lay down tracks some time before eventually receiving a cd or vinyl pressing.  Sometimes the songs remain on cassette only, and occasionally good songs are only recorded on video cassettes.

The subject of contemporary Congolese music has been well documented, particularly in the two volumes of Ronnie Graham’s Stern’s Guide to African Music (U.S.: Da Capo Guide to African Music), Chris May and Chris Stapleton’s African All Stars, and Graeme Ewens’ Africa Oye.  (And since this article was written – Gary Stewart’s Rumba on the River, plus a few books not written in the English language).  An early history of most of the artists mentioned can be gleaned from those volumes and hopefully this series of articles will help to update the story of what is probably Africa’s most vibrant music style. 

Papa Wemba and Viva la Musica  
  Viva la Musica - Live at Africa Centre, London - 25 Jan 1992

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock


Papa Wemba   Papa Wemba

It is fairly predictable to commence with Papa Wemba (le Kuru Yaka, Bokul, or Ekumany, as he is variously known) because he is perhaps the best known name within the Congolese musical community while at the same time having created a niche for himself in the "Global market”.  Wemba’s Emotion cd (Real World RW 52) was nominated by many pundits as one of the top releases of 1995.  The cd was part of an ongoing project of Wemba’s to infiltrate the global popular market in much the same way that Youssou N’dour and Salif Keita have done. 

While Emotion is a good crossover cd it is not really representative of Congolese music.  I fully understand the motives behind a project like this but at the same time feel that commercial diversions like this can sometimes devalue the music that he makes for his home market.  At the same time I would forward a counter argument that any increase in listenership for Wemba must be encouraged for it might serve to introduce a larger audience to what I refer to as his “real” music.

Photo of Papa Wemba from 'Emotion' album sleeve 


Viva la Musica - Live at Dougie's Inter-Mezzo, London - 23 Dec 1991

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock


Yves Demukusse Yves Demukusse Papa Wemba & Evoloko  


Stino Mubi, Papa Wemba & Reddy Amisi



Wemba’s work with Real World and his live promotions of the music with his “international” band have caused a certain amount of consternation and dissension within his Paris-based band, Viva la Musica.  There is a common trait among Congolese bands for minor jealousies and squabbles to escalate into full-scale defections and Viva have suffered several over the years. 

The most significant recently was the loss of half the band (solo guitarist Bongo Wende, bass Boss Matuta, drummer Awilo Longomba, and singers Joe Fataki, Luciana de Mingongo, Fafa de Molokaï, and Lidjo Kwempa) to form La Nouvelle Generation de la Republic Democratique in 1993.

  Viva la Musica live at Tottenham Green, London - 2 Jan 1993

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock




Yves Demukusse



Papa Wemba


A performer of the stature of Wemba has little trouble in rebuilding his band for there is always an eager queue of talented newcomers waiting to be recruited or even poached from other less prominent bands; and also musicians within his own ranks ready to assume a more prominent role.  Since the Nouvelle Generation defection he has honed the new Viva to a state of excellence that is almost unsurpassable, and I therefore suspect and hope that Wemba would now wish to maintain some continuity and stability in the band. 

However, certain members of Viva have recently expressed dissatisfaction with a situation where Wemba appears to have been placing more importance on his international stature than on the general well-being of Viva la Musica.  Some of his singers and musicians have therefore distanced themselves and endeavoured to become more independent from Wemba, while at the same time not completely disassociating themselves from Viva la Musica.

  Viva la Musica live at Selby Centre, London - 19 June 1992

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock



Papa Wemba & Viva la Musica



Stino Mubi of Viva la Musica





Papa Wemba


Stino Mubi, Papa Wemba & Reddy Amisi

Several “solo” recordings have been issued over the last few years and while these are still Viva la Musica recordings and they do still feature the voice of Papa Wemba they have been released under the name of the main songwriter. 


At the same time Wemba himself has released two discs of essentially his own compositions under his own name.  This batch of recordings has, for me at least, totally eclipsed the somewhat disposable and unsatisfactory nature of the Emotion disc.


Stino Mubi L’As de la Chorale & Viva la Musica – Romeo & Juliette (KL 092, 1994)

Along with Reddy Amisi, Stino has for many years been Papa Wemba’s permanent co-vocalist in Viva.  Stino is the self-proclaimed “Michael Jackson of Zaïre” and on stage does a very convincing, and very well received, impersonation.  This cd makes a huge concession toward Western pop music of the Jacko kind.  That, however, should in no way deter you for Stino spectacularly melds the glory of Viva la Musica rumba with U.S. pop-dance sensibility.  An incredibly strong commercial crossover recording that remains eminently tasteful and credible within a Congolese context.


Stino Mubi live at Salle LSC in Paris, 3 December 1994

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock




Papy-Ipepy & Papa Wemba & Viva la Musica (PY CD 102, 1994)

I unhesitatingly placed this, along with Stino’s disc, in my Top Ten for 1994 and thereby inadvertently stirred a hornet’s nest.  This disc was pressed in very small quantities and sadly is no longer to be found even in Paris.  It’s Papy Ipepy’s second outing with Viva but he is not an actual member of the band, merely a guest.  Kicks off with a sublime tribute to Franco featuring a vocal duet with Nyboma (another guest) as Ipepy medleys “Marcelina” and “Mado” with a cool Francoesque guitar backing by Papa Noel.  The rest of the cd is prime Viva with an exceptional contribution by Stino on “Henda Mon Amour”.




Papa Wemba & Viva la Musica – Foridoles (CD 72424, 1994)

A Wemba masterpiece rightly cited by the pundits as one of the best recordings of 1994.  Unlike Emotion this recording perfectly encapsulates the two sides of Wemba: Paris high-tech aspiring pop artist, and established Kinshasa chef de Molokaï, leader of the new generation and creator of idols.  In addition to the full Viva line-up Wemba teams up with session musician Maïka Munan (a long-time collaborator of Wemba’s and former member of Tabu Ley’s Afrisa) who contributes many of the compositions and musical direction and really should receive much of the credit for the success of this disc.  


  Viva la Musica live at Salle LSC in Paris, 3 December 1994

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock


Papa Wemba

Reddy & Djanana

Papa Wemba


Yves Demukusse

Iko Nolo

Papy Ipepy & Cele le Roi

Iko Nolo

Maika Munan


Yves Demukusse

Yves Demukusse






Abeba Lipordo & Viva la Musica de Papa Wemba – Mechant Garçon (FDB 300185, 1994)

Second release under the name Abeba Lipordo, another excellent songwriter who contributes occasionally to Viva without being an actual group member.  Temporarily rejoining the group for this session is guitarist Rigo Star who plays most of the solos and handles the musical arrangements.  A great collection of songs which inspires a full Viva line-up in one of their best recorded performances.  



Gloria Tukhadio – Tenue Correcte (CDS 6833, 1994)

Most people already know of Papa Wemba’s backing singers Stino and Reddy but additionally Viva has a fabulous line-up of quality voices who share the stage during the conventionally all-night concerts (five hours is the norm).  Gloria is just one of these singers and has been with Viva since 1984, having formerly been in Orchestre Rumba Ray with Maray Maray (himself an ex-Viva singer).  In addition to Wemba and Viva he is joined on this first “solo” project by Dally Kimoko, Pablo Lubadika and veteran singer Theo Blaise Kounkou who helps with the production.  Gloria proves his compositional talent with a fine set of 10 tunes distinctively sung and superbly played by the band.  Includes his own dance/chant “Groupe Indien”.



Viva la Musica - live at  Salle LSC, Paris - 13 July 1996

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock




  Stino Mubi Papa Wemba & Timolo

Reddy Amisi – Prudence (50380-2, 1995)

The Congolese audience, bemused by Emotion, basically chose to ignore it, but they were able to satiate their need for new Viva product with this stunner from Reddy.  Such was the success of this disc that stories began to circulate of the various “sacrifices” that Reddy had made (sorcery is still prevalent in the Congolese music business).  However it is perfectly evident from first listening that this is simply an exceptional record.  By re-introducing the “broken” voice of Viva veteran Dindo Yogo an instant triumph was almost assured.  Also guesting is Maïka repeating his subtle contribution to Foridoles , Popolipo (Koffi Olomide’s solo guitarist), and Dally Kimoko.  Add that to the complete Viva line-up and a fabulous set of songs by Reddy and the result can only be true magic.  




Joly Baki Emen Mubiala de Viva la Musica – Terre Noire (CBC CD 21, 1995)

Not really a Viva disc but Joly is a regular front-line singer for Viva as well as making frequent appearances with his brother Emeneya in Victoria Eleison.  This is Joly’s second release under his own name and vocally teams him next to Carlito Lassa (ex-Choc Stars and OK Jazz) for a subdued but tasty session that has sweet guitar backing by Rigo Star (an ex-Viva veteran himself) and Caien Madoka (Afrisa International and session wizard).  Characteristic Viva cris d’animation “Mingi Mingi Itari”, “Bouloukoutou” and “Un pas qui va un pas qui revient” (one step forward, one step back).



Chancelier Desi Mbwese & Viva la Musica – Proces Verbal (CDS 6838, 1995)

London based Desi hired Viva singers Wemba, Reddy, Stino and Djuna Djanana to back him on this one-off disc.  Guitarists Safro Manzangi and Satana Mongo-Ley (both ex Victoria Eleison and both former Viva players), both now resident in the UK, handle the guitar work on what is a good first recording.  Although Desi is no great singer the exemplary performances of the rest of the musicians is sufficient to make this a very satisfying Viva release. 




Papa Wemba – Emotion (CD RW 52, 1995)

Judging by my preamble, articles in other journals, and some radio broadcasts you may have gained the impression that I hate this recording.  Forgive me for misleading you, because Emotion is a superb disc and all of those highly qualified pundits who placed it in their Top Tens for 1995 are perhaps justified in doing so.  My criticisms are purely to be taken in the context of Congolese music and the output of Viva la Musica.  As a “global” pop disc Emotion is of a particularly high quality and Papa Wemba’s voice is, as ever, stunning.  I imagine that if he chose to sing “The Greatest Hits of Take That” (a crappy English Boy Band of the nineties) I would still love it.  You see, Kuru Yaka, he sings like a bird!



Viva la Musica live at Salle LSC, Paris - 13 July 1996

All pictures are copyright Martin Sinnock


Kito Dembela, Gloria, Stino & Djanana

Spraya & Gloria

Kito Dembela & Gloria


Spraya & Papa Wemba

Kito Dembela

Yves Demukusse with Martin Sinnock in 1996




Pacha & Viva la Musica de Papa Wemba – Voyage Ya Poto (BMP 950058, 1995)

Ayatollah Pachamac is another occasional guest singer-songwriter who here releases his third album with Papa Wemba.  This really shows Viva at their most powerful and musically varied and as in their live shows Wemba’s co-vocalists are allowed plenty of time centre-stage to prove their worth.  This disc gives a particularly good opportunity to hear the quality and distinctive individuality of some of the lower-profiled Viva singers: Djuna Djanana, Joly Mubiala, Gloria Tukhadio and Cele le Roi, and as well as Pacha’s fabulously plaintive voice there are also guest vocal appearances from Dindo Yogo and Luciana.  It’s also a chance to hear just how good solo guitarist Demukusse and accompanist Timo Lolo work together as they demonstrate their prowess on the opening frenzied dance track “Vengeance”.  Without doubt this is one of Viva’s best recordings. 



Viva la Musica & Papa Wemba – Pole Position (CDS 8825, 1995)

Basically this is Foridoles Volume 2, due largely to Maïka Munan’s distinctively sophisticated production and arrangements.  Recorded toward the end of 1995, it captures the band during a period of temporary inner turmoil.  Demukusse and bass guitarist Egide are both missing from the session, their crucial presence being variously taken by four guest guitarists (including Zaïko veteran Manuaku and Dally Kimoko) and two guest bass players.  Despite the partial fragmentation Wemba has again come up with an exquisite album.  Twelve tracks layered with acoustic guitar (Maïka’s influence) and some suitably tasty dance material showcasing their latest “Chegue Chegue” dance. 


By the time this article is published in The Beat magazine the next Viva la Musica related recording should be on sale and it promises to be sensational.  It will be marketed under the name of a new Congolese singer Yvon Mumpala and Viva solo guitarist Yves Demukusse (a truly great musician).  As well as featuring Stino, Gloria, Luciana and Viva bassist Egide this new disc will present three new singers: Wabalonzo, Freddy Nkodia and Patrick Tunga.

Martin Sinnock -  Spring 1996     
For Martin's other written works, please read the highly recommended world music print publication The Beat (