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
I’m gonna chase you out of earth!
So begins one of my all-time favourite songs, Chase the Devil by Max Romeo, produced by the divinely crazy Lee Perry. Its startling opening lines are lifted from the Bible.
Romeo: Lucifer son of the morning, I’m gonna chase you out of earth!
Isaiah 14:12: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Romeo: I’m gonna put on a iron shirt, and chase Satan out of earth. I’m gonna put on a iron shirt, and chase the devil out of earth.
Job 18:18: He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.
Romeo: I’m gonna send him to outta space, to find another race. I’m gonna send him to outta space, to find another race. Satan is an evilous man, But him can’t chocks it on I-man. So when I check him my lassing hand. And if him slip, I gaan with him hand.
Errr … don’t think my King James’ says anything about evilous and chocking …
In one biographical note I read on Romeo, when he was young and feckless, he narrowed his ambitions down to two: preacher or singer. He chose right.
I included the track in a musical quiz in September 2006. Check it out.
Top of my list to Santa: a Gibson J150 electro-acoustic.
A snip at $2 000 minimum .
He was one of those people you imagined would always be around, just because he had always seemed to have been around; there when I was getting my first teenage kicks; there when I dreamt of playing my guitar for people outside my bedroom; there when I danced around the house in West Africa, happy in the knowledge of getting divorced!
He was like the voice of God on the radio, mumbling away late at night about bands that only their members cared about – them and Peely. He could be boring as hell but was always good for name-checking, “Yeah I heard their first session on John Peel 4 years ago.” Some nights it seemed like The Fall were the permanent resident band.
For what it’s worth …
I’ve got a T-Rex album with Peel reading a fairy story for Marc Bolan and Peregrine whatsizname; also an Undertones’ session with Feargal Sharkey reading Noddy and Big Ears.
Anyone suggest Peel’s playlist for his first heavenly gig?