|After the exodus of musicians, Wemba began regrouping Viva La Musica during early 1983. He was also still enjoying solo success with the previous year's Franco-financed recordings, which had only just been released. The new look Viva were also progressing well and had begun to claw back some success through the addition of a number of new recruits. Then, while travelling back from a concert in the Bukavu district of Eastern Zaire, Papa Wemba was badly injured in a road accident when the radiator of the vehicle he had been driving burst, covering him with scalding water. Wemba spent several weeks in a small village hospital recovering. He later sang the story and thanked all the hospital staff who had cared for him on record, in the folklore hit 'Bukavu Dawa'.
By late 1983 Wemba and Viva were celebrating their new dance called the 'Rumba Rock - Frenchen' and, due to an increasing European interest in African music, Viva found their LPs regularly selling well in Europe for the first time. Wemba capitalised on this during another European trip. He recorded his first non Zairian LP, titled Malimba, in Brussels that same year with Belgian avant garde composer Hector Zazu.
|1984 saw Wemba undertake a long period of rest, recuperating in Europe for several months after the previous couple of years' frantic activity. It also launched the new Viva Sapeur dance 'La Firenze', (a homage to the Italian fashion capital of Europe), where Wemba sings of style and elegance, against a swaggering and lilting electro rumba rhythm. As can be imagined, the song's lyrics promoted the latest couturier costumes of designers from Gianni Versace to Yoji Yamamoto.|
|Wemba later explained his rationale for this decision in a 1990 interview. "Even though I was a star in Zaire, a star in Africa," he told his interviewer, "I decided to slam the door on Zaire. I said to myself, I don't want to play music only for Zairians anymore. I am going to play music for all humanity."
1985 found Papa Wemba the subject of a one-hour documentary, 'Chef Coutumier de la Rumba Rock' ('Chief of the Rumba Rock Tribe'), made for Belgian TV.
In 1986 Papa Wemba made his acting debut, starring in the film 'La Vie Est Belle' ('Life is Beautiful') where he plays the lead role of the young singer, Kuru, who arrives in Kinshasa from the countryside and quickly learns how to survive in the big city.
The film is a lighthearted comedy which shows almost all the evils that afflict Zairian society, together with all the niceties - music, beer, women, drugs, griff, stimulants, sorcery, polygamy - that make Kinshasa such a fatal attraction, to visit with trepidation and to enjoy only with great care. It explores the psyche of Congolese society and, even today, remains both a humorous and semi-factual account of life in one of Africa's biggest capital cities.
'La Vie est Belle' was also the first feature film made in Zaire since the country's independence from Belgium in 1960. The picture proved to be an international hit, and won awards at a succession of independent film festivals around the world.
La Vie Est Belle Promo Poster
|Papa Wemba - Esclave|
Wemba followed this by undertaking two new musical projects. The first was an LP titled Sika Ya Mungu aimed at the international market, and then the excellent Viva La Musica-backed Esclave LP, on the title track of which Wemba tackles the subjects of slavery and racism, singing of the centuries of repression faced by black people throughout the world. The song was later re-recorded and appears on his first world music LP (Papa Wemba, Sterns 1988).
What has happened to me, the son of the sun..
I was raised by the whip, bowed beneath the pain inflicted by strangers.
Today you still murder my African Gods. Oh the shame of it.
Slave in Africa with a rope around my neck; slave in America on the railroads.
For me the road was long to Zanzibar..
I went to America. to work for the white man. Oh the shame.
Martin Luther King. Bessie Smith. Bob Marley..
They struggled for the cause and freedom of the black man.
I think of all those sold to America. Among them are my brothers.
I know they are in Guadeloupe, Martinique, New Caledonia and the Antilles. .
But they are unknown.
Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Sister Maria Teresa.
The stranger still rules in South Africa.
Let us support Winnie Mandela in the continuing fight against apartheid.
Freedom for me, son of the sun.
Papa Wemba & Viva La Musica.
|Although both were excellent LPs these discs, particularly Esclave, suffered from poor European distribution.
However these releases helped to keep Papa Wemba and Viva La Musica at the forefront of attention with both his Kinoise fans and his growing European audience.
During the summer of 1986, Papa Wemba and Viva La Musica had also already taken up the offer of a Japanese tour, on which an increasing and dedicated Japanese fan base had their first experience of Viva La Musica at concerts in Tokyo and Osaka.
A return visit was then proposed for later the same year. However Papa Wemba was growing increasingly discontented with his Zairian musicians and complained of their inability to adapt to an international arena. The proposed return tour was postponed and a number of Viva musicians were sacked. The tour was then rescheduled to take place in 1987.
Live in concert - Tokyo 1986