Since September 5, 1997, the Congolese rumba had lost one of its most famous representatives. A situation that ended on February 28 with the mediatized reconciliation of its two leading artists. Their discord found its source in the rivalry that punctuated their relations. And this competition had ended up contaminating the whole group. Ego wars and disagreements between the four directors, namely Werrason, JB Mpiana, Dider Masela and Alain Makeba: Wenge Musica was no more. From there, everyone could trace their artistic path and found a group around themselves with their own singers and musicians. Werrason created Wenge parent company and Wenge BCBG was born from the spirit of his rival.
“They weren’t giving each other gifts. The rivalry between them had reached new heights”, slips us Amadou Diaby, Congolese-Guinean businessman, producer and also the one who managed to reconcile them. A confrontation where everyone went blow for blow. A competition that bordered on the comic when in 2001, at the Fikin (Kinshasa International Fair), neither of the two wanted to stop playing until the other had given up. Pushed by a public in fusion, they then played from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. The police had to interrupt this musical marathon and disperse the raging spectators with tear gas. But this duel turned tragic when the audience clashed in pitched battles, like that day in 2005 – still à la Fikin – when JB Mpiana’s performance was interrupted by clashes between spectators. “The neighborhoods of Kin’ were divided, there were even couples who separated! exclaims Fabrice Kabuku, a specialist in Congolese music.
For him, there should be no mistake: “Yes, there have been terrible events. But this rivalry helped them sell. Between 1998 and 2005, a period when tension was at its height, the attachment of fans to their champions was particularly prolific for the two men. Business was going well beyond the Congolese borders. Africa, Europe and the United States welcomed these rumba aces. All over the world, neither wanted to flinch. “When one was doing the Zenith in Paris, the other felt obliged to do it too. When Werrason filled Bercy in September 2000, JB Mpiana imitated him a year later,” Fabrice Kabuku tells us, with a hint of fascination in his voice, when he talks about this duel at the top.
Each had its audience. On the one hand “Wera”, Unesco’s ambassador for peace, with his label of singer of the people. An artist who speaks to the “shegueys”, these young men left to fend for themselves in the suburbs of Kinshasa. JB Mpiana is more sophisticated, more bling-bling in his style. A trait that we find in the name of the group he created after the dislocation of 1997: Wenge BCBG…
“This stylistic antagonism even went beyond the music,” he recalls. When you went clubbing at Kin’, you knew who was pro-Wera or pro-JB Mpiana. The former had an urban style while the latter dressed with a more distinguished look. »
A secret and belated two-hour interview during which grievances are ironed out and resentments forgotten
How do you come back from twenty-five years of resentment? Amadou Diaby found the recipe. “We had to convince JB Mpiana and Werra. I understood that if I reconciled the two, the other administrators and the whole group would follow suit. “There will have been round trips and interviews with each other for two months, until that night in early February, at his residence in Gombé. It is in this residential district of Kinshasa that the quarrel ends. “The two arrived almost at the same time, and they immediately called each other by their nicknames. “De la Forêt” for Werrason, and “Piano” for his sidekick,” he says. A secret and belated two-hour interview during which grievances are put to rest and resentments forgotten.
Recording a new album
In his producer’s costume, Amadou Diaby enthuses: “The whole country is waiting for this. ” Perhaps. Wenge Musica, created on July 12, 1981, is one of the pillars of Congolese musical heritage. “Fally Ipupa and Dj Arafat were inspired by them, insists Fabrice Kabuku. The influence of Wenge Musica can also be found in France. Just listen to the rhythmic tracks of rapper Naza, which draws directly from the afrobeat created by Papy Kakol, Werrason’s drummer in Wenge parent company, ”he continues.
How will the Kinshasa and African public as a whole welcome this comeback? The photo of the four directors of Wenge together has already made the buzz on social networks. Wera and JB Mpiana are now back for new adventures. On April 26, the whole troupe will be in Kinshasa for the start of rehearsals and then head to Cape Verde for the recording of a new album.