I wrote this blog to celebrate the art of music, culture and words of four legends that came to rest this year, and to briefly highlight what made each one’s work iconic.

Papa Wemba

The passing away of the Rumba music icon had Kinshasa roam with crowds mourning for a number of days, in late-April this year. Born on 14 June 1949 in Lubefu, DRC, Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba’s mother was a professional wailer. Amidst prospering as the King of Rumba, he was appointed as “Chef-Coutumier” in his village where he introduced a certain youth fashion culture better known as “La Sape”, extending from his music group to the youth of his village and across the entire country. It is culture that stimulated peaking standards of hygiene, and not just well but keen and elegant dressing among the youth. This came with learning and practicing the art of proper conversation amongst the youth and their elders A remarkable turnaround from the poverty that was and still is dominating this region to an education that has prevailed in this culture up to date.



Most must have been confused by Prince. It was and still is impossible to put the concept of Prince in a labeled box. The term ‘unapologetic’ probably fits him best because he owned a kind of self that was fearless, daring, original and impeccably creative—both personally and professionally.

Confidence is best portrayed in not conforming to and challenging standards, and this is what Prince did best; ranging from his sense of fashion, his demeanours when expressing himself and, above all, his music that gained popularity in the ‘80s.

No one comes close in comparison lyrically, he composed and wrote his music from an impartial observation of the complexities of the human behaviours. His ability to play almost every musical instrument he needed for his music, cannot be only attributed to talent, it is only a plus to passion, tireless hours of practice and intent.

Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive

Muhammad Ali

“I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee here,” said the poet boxer himself. And nothing better depicts his greatness in the ring than this short poem. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. One of the amusements in boxing history must be when he showed Kinshasa a memorable victory against George Foreman in 1974, upon the invite of then-King of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko. When looking at his pictures, it is almost impossible not to be joyously absorbed by a chaotic tenderness and a thunderous yet gracious celebration that brewed an art—one that radiates real energy, self-belief, enthusiasm, contentment and victory—all roaring from his body. He was not just a champion in the ring, he took part in matters associated with civil rights and racial equality in the U.S.

Often during interviews, he reflectively responded with full rhymes, in a way that pushed for true self-expression, clarity and openness. He indeed was the greatest!

Photo by David Coventry

Elie Wiesel

Widely known for his book Night, based on his life in the Nazi concentration camps, Wiesel became a figure of multi-dimensional perspective. When asked what it felt like to witness such tragedies and fulfilling the duty of recording these events in which he lived and fortunately managed to survive, he replied, “when you read a book on the Holocaust, written by a survivor, you always feel this ambivalence. On one hand, he feels he must. On the other hand, he feels . . . if only I didn’t have to.”

His descriptions contained how alien and intolerable it is for mankind to go against mankind; how unacceptable it remains for humanity to sink so low against itself no matter how often it happens. Wiesel’s words are words that should  be revisited time and again to reinvent humanity in a light that points towards goodness, acceptance and collaboration.

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