Papa Wemba, one of Africa’s greatest music stars, died Sunday after collapsing on stage during a festival in the Ivory Coast.
The world music legend, renowned as the “king of Congolese rumba” for the fusion of Cuban and electronic rock that he pioneered in the 1970s, was 66.
He died after falling ill during a set at the Urban Musical Festival Anoumabo (FEMUA) in Abidjan, the first major cultural event in the country since a jihadist attack on a beach resort last month.
Video footage broadcast live on television showed the dramatic moment that Papa Wemba — wearing a bold black and white patterned tunic and oversized bowler hat, slumped to the floor behind a group of dancers, before performers rushed to his aid.
FEMUA management expressed its “deep sorrow” at the death of a man who has been at the forefront of African music for more than four decades.
“Papa Wemba wanted to die on stage, that’s what he told me two weeks ago when I spoke to him on the phone,” festival promoter and singer Salif Traore, known as A’Salfo, told AFP.
A’Salfo, lead singer with the Ivorian group Magic System, said he understood Papa Wemba died on the way to hospital and that a journalist who interviewed him earlier in the day had noticed that he appeared unwell.
The journalist “told me that Papa Wemba was showing signs of fatigue. He was drinking water between every sentence”, he said.
The festival was held just over a month after the Islamist attack on the beach resort of Grand-Bassam on March 13 that left 19 people dead.