Papa Wemba was like my big brother, says Kanda Bongo Man

Wemba died in April 2016 in Abidjan, after collapsing on stage.

In Summary
  • '...we grew up in the same area. His younger brother was my best friend.'
Kanda Bongo Man
Kanda Bongo Man
Image: Douglas Okiddy

Legendary Congolese singer Kanda Bongo Man has paid tribute to his friend and an elder brother Papa Wemba.

He told Word Is on Friday, "Papa Wemba was like my big brother because we grew up in the same area. His younger brother was my best friend. He passed away before Papa Wemba. We grew up together in Matongé, Kinshasa"

Wemba died at the age of 66 on April 24, 2016, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after collapsing on stage during the FEMUA urban music festival.


Bongo Man was in the country at the weekend and headlined the 28th edition of Koroga Festival at Bomas of Kenya.

When asked about Kenyan artiste Kanda King, who modelled after him, Bongo Man said, "Kanda King is my boy, I love him and Kanda Kid too. I am very happy that they took my name and are going ahead with the music. I'm very happy and may God bless them."

The Muchana hitmaker is a relative of superstar Fally Ipupa but none of his children has ventured into music.

"Fally Ipupa is my nephew. His mother is my cousin, she is like my sister. I stopped my kids from doing music so that they can concentrate on school," he said.

"They have graduated and now they are free to do what they want to do. It's up to them now to choose whether they'll do music or not."

Bongo Man said the secret to his successful music career is putting his fans first. He has been singing since the 1970s. 

"I try my best to make sure that my music is there over a long time and to make people happy. I choose carefully the kind of melody to sing along to, that way I'm able to bring people on my side," he said.

The Monie singer's love for Kenyan people started in 1991, when he first came to Nairobi.