My 1989 Interview with Papa Wemba

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Papa Wemba in 1989. Photo: Steve Laufer

As I wrote in a blog post earlier this week, Congolese rumba great Papa Wemba performed in L.A. a few times in the late 1980’s, first at the Executive Club and later as a star in an African musical at the Pantages Theater, in a show called Africa Oye. That’s where I caught him in 1989.

Africa Oye was extended into a two-week run, an unlikely possibility today. The climate for African music was better back then due to more regular coverage of African and world music both on KCRW, such as with the dedicated “African Beat” show, as well as in print outlets like Beat Magazine, the LA Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times. There was a real buzz going on.

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