ABIDJAN - Before the body of African music legend, Papa Wemba, was taken to the Democratic Republic of Congo for burial, International and local artists in Ivory Coast paid a final tribute to the musician known as "the King of Rumba Rock".
The crowd encouraged the members of Papa Wemba's band to perform despite their grief, as they stood, visibly emotional, on a stage surrounded by flowers.
A few thousand people, all dressed in white, came to pay tribute to one of Africa’s most famous musicians. The message on their t-shirts and on the stage read "We mourn you, long live Wemba."
Audience member Alain Aka says Papa Wemba was a big man of music. Sadly he is gone, he says, so they are here to pay him the stirring tribute he deserves.
For young local musician Eric Kouassi, Papa Wemba was an inspiration.
"We have all known him since we were little", Kouassi says. "We grew up with his music and his melodies. His death really affected us, that is why we came to give support."
Officials and artists took turns praising the man known for his Congolese rumba.
“Africa mourns a son. Ivory Coast mourns a brother. And the D.R.C. mourns a father,” said one presenter.
Papa Wemba, whose real name was Jules Shungu Wembadio, died Sunday after collapsing on stage. He was performing at the FEMUA music festival, organized in Abidjan by another legendary African musical act, the Ivorian band Magic System.
Wemba's family was present at the wake in Abidjan, dressed mostly in black and sitting in the front row.
Music System band member A’Salfo says that Papa Wemba wanted to die on stage. He says we should not be sad, we should be proud. If the biggest artist of African music decides to die where Magic System was born, he says it means he wanted to send a message.
The celebration lasted until dawn before Wemba's body was flown to home to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was 66 years old.