Watch 1987's 'La Vie Est Belle' Starring The Late Papa Wemba

Papa Wemba starred in the hit film that tells the story of a struggling musician who tries to make it big in Kinshasa.

Photo of film art courtesy of Jeremy Rall.

I first heard of Papa Wemba through the movie La vie est belle, which translates to "Life is beautiful," or “Life is rosy.” Although it was released in 1987, some African countries still did not have TV stations, so it garnered so much popularity when high school students were lucky enough to watch it in the movie theater at their schools.

This film was also just as prominent like 1980’s The Gods Must Be Crazy, because they were able to depict the life that most of the people knew well in the countries that make up central and southern Africa.

Papa Wemba played the lead role, Kourou, who was a peasant from a village deep in the former Zaire, today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kourou had the dream of becoming a great musician. He decided to leave the village venture off to the capital, Kinshasa, barefoot with his traditional musical instrument.

When he reached Kinshasa, he realized life in the city was starkly different and went through life’s ups and downs. As he struggled to overcome the challenges of adapting his music from the village to the city, he manages to make the new friends who are the big names in the history of Congolese rumba and soukous, including Pepe Kalle, who unfortunately also died while performing on stage in 1998.

Pepe Kalle’s little dancing sidekick, Emoro, who’s real name was Tumba Ayila, made an appearance repeating the phrase, “La vie est belle” throughout the film. And Kourou’s love interest, Kabibi, was played by Bibi Krubwa.

La vie est belle depicted romance, love and family reconciliation all with beautiful Congolese music as the thread. You’ll also hear music in the film from Tshala Muana, Klody and Zaiko Langa Langa, one of the most successful Congolese groups Papa Wemba co-founded and played a huge role in.

Watch La vie est belle in full, with English subtitles, below.


Interview: Wavy The Creator Is Ready to See You Now

The multidisciplinary Nigerian-American artist on tapping into all her creative outlets, creating interesting things, releasing a new single and life during quarantine.

A trip canceled, plans interrupted, projects stalled. It is six months now since Wavy the Creator has had to make a stop at an undisclosed location to go into quarantine and get away from the eye of the pandemic.

The professional recording artist, photographer, writer, fashion artist, designer, and evolving creative has been spending all of this time in a house occupied by other creatives. This situation is ideal. At least for an artist like Wavy who is always in a rapid motion of creating and bringing interesting things to life. The energy around the house is robust enough to tap from and infuse into any of her numerous creative outlets. Sometimes, they also inspire trips into new creative territories. Most recently, for Wavy, are self-taught lessons on a bass guitar.

Wavy's days in this house are not without a pattern, of course. But some of the rituals and personal rules she drew up for herself, like many of us did for internal direction, at the beginning of the pandemic have been rewritten, adjusted, and sometimes ditched altogether. Some days start early and end late. Some find her at her sewing machine fixing up thrift clothes to fit her taste, a skill she picked up to earn extra cash while in college, others find her hard at work in the studio, writing or recording music.

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