The King of Rumba, Papa Wemba, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, with 26 of them suspended. He was accused of helping illegal immigrants enter France under the cover of his large musical entourage. Belgian police finally twigged when 200 “band members” disappeared while on tour. Papa Wemba won’t in fact spend any more time in prison since he’s already been inside for almost four months. I saw an excellent Belgian documentary about him and his band of sapeurs years ago. I see that the BBC has made another documentary more recently.
When I was looking for more to say about Papa Wemba I quickly found that there was very little I could add, given the already excellent articles available on the Web. It’s quite daunting to realize how much is out there, and therefore how much my own notes are a drop in the the ocean. (Research proposal: Freezing weather brings on feelings of insignificance. I can barely feel my toes and the heater over the door is blasting over my head at 27 degrees C.)
More on Papa Wemba:
Rumba in the jungle (The Economist: consistently high-quality arts pages; too bad the rest is so dull)
New York concert (from AfricaSounds: excellent expert reviews)
Enter the SAPE (with Papa Wemba on stream)
Papa Wemba’s official site is inactive