Papa Wemba is such an influential figure in Congolese music that it is nearly impossible to compete with him.
Regardless of the popular hits and artists of the moment, the first name that comes to mind when thinking about Congolese music and rumba is Papa Wemba. With songs such as “Analengo,” Papa Wemba is not only one of the most popular artists in Africa but also a prominent figure in world music.
In the collective memory of the Congolese, Franco Luambo Makiadi will forever be known as the “King of Rumba.” Most commonly referred to as Franco, he was nicknamed the “Sorcerer of the Guitar,” as he mastered the skills of playing fluidly with seemingly little effort.
In the course of his 40-year career in music, Franco produced more than 100 albums and more than 1,000 songs to his name. His music blended Cuban rumba with local Congolese rhythms, attracting both the young and the elderly. Despite his influence being heard in local music today, he remains a popular nightclub performer.
The singer and songwriter Lokua Kanza was born in Bukavu, DRC, to a Congolese father and a Rwandan mother. In comparison to the other musicians on this list, he takes a more contemporary approach to Congolese music. “Wapi Yo” might be his most popular song, but his entire repertoire is full of enjoyable material for easy listening. It is well-known in Europe that Kanza is an acoustic musician.
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The pride of DR Congo, Fally Ipupa is currently the most well-liked artist in that country. Before Koffi Olomide began featuring Ipupa alone, he first rose to fame through Quartier Latin, a group of singers who would perform songs and dances with Olomide.
Ipupa decided to start his own career by fusing the regional soukous ndombolo with R&B beats in an effort to distance himself from his instructor. Ipupa is also well-known for using intricate and self-professed monikers like “Di Caprio,” “Anelka,” and “El Maravilloso.” Without the playing of Ipupa songs like “droit chemin, ko ko ko ko,” and “kidiamfuka,” no Congolese celebration would be complete.
The biggest rival to Koffi Olomide is Werrason, who enjoys the same level of national fame. They both perform a wide variety of ndombolo music, are incredible dancers with a similar technique, are known for their pride and arrogance, and have a sizable following around the country.
Werrason is less well-known outside, though. Werrason is a maestro of the ndombolo (soukous) in its purest form, in contrast to Olomide who incorporates poetry into his music.
Werrason earned the moniker “Tarzan, le Roi de la Forêt” when he triumphed in a martial arts competition in his early adolescence. This was then abbreviated to “Roi de la Forêt,” which is how we now refer to him as the king of the forest.
Seigneur Tabu ley Rochereau
Seigneur Tabu Ley Rochereau was a notable Congolese rumba singer, a prolific lyricist, one of the most significant vocalists on the continent, and a politician throughout his lifetime. Along with 67 other kids, he is also the father of the French rapper Youssoupha. Rochereau created 250 music CDs and around 3,000 songs over the years.
As the conductor of Orchestre Afrisa International, he was very well-known. Along with his guitarist Dr. Nico Kasanda, Rochereau helped establish soukous music. He also blended international influences with Congolese folk music, including Caribbean, Cuban, and Latin American rumba. The “African Elvis” has been used to characterize him.