Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 17:10 UK

'Father' of Congolese rumba dies

Papa Wendo
Papa Wendo began his career as a boxer in the 1940s

World music star Papa Wendo, often hailed as the "father" of Congolese rumba music, has died at the age of 82.

The musician was admitted to a clinic in Kinshasa in DR Congo on Monday and died after a long illness.

His music first came to the attention of international audiences in the 1950s with Marie Louise, which some Congolese believed could wake the dead.

Wendo was born Antoine Wendo Kolosoy in the Bandundu region but became an orphan at the age of nine.

His parents' deaths meant he was taken care of by priests - until he found them too strict and left about three years later, Agence France-Press said in an obituary.

Political past

The singer started his career as a boxer in the 1940s and travelled to Cameroon and Senegal before he made his first record in 1948.

The Catholic church suspected his song Marie Louise had satanic powers, and the singer was briefly jailed.

In the 1940s Wendo befriended the country's first legally elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba.

But he was assassinated shortly after taking office at the height of the Cold War, in 1961, by a combination of Belgian and United States agents.

Four years later, army chief Joseph Mobutu took power and Wendo decided to stop playing music, citing politics as his reason.

Mobutu was forced out in 1997 and the father of current leader Joseph Kabila helped Wendo when he restarted his recording and touring career.

A documentary on Wendo called On the Rumba River, made by French film-maker Jacques Sarasin, was released last month.


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