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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Papa Wemba & Viva La Musica

By Tom Orr
Published August 1, 2005

The First Twenty Years
Stern's Africa

Congolese vocalist Papa Wemba has had an extraordinary career. He formed his band Viva la Musica in 1976, quickly making the transition from ragtag singer to renowned music and fashion trendsetter. The early selections on this retrospective (a good mix of popular and obscure) are rough but fiery. Wemba?Js influences include gospel, chanson and soul, and his soaring warble of a voice can sweeten the rootsiest rumba, the slickest soukous and all points in between. Landmark songs of love, longing and social commentary, which no simple recapping can do justice to, are included, with plentiful chiming guitars, animated vocals and percolating rhythms never letting up.