Thursday, July 29, 2010

Papa Wemba (sans Papa Wemba)

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So the 50 Cent concert did not happen. We went down to the stadium to purchase the tickets and the people there had absolutely no idea what we were talking about.

Us: Is this where we can buy the tickets for 50 Cent?
Them: Who is 50 Cent?
Us: The American rapper, you know, 50 Cent? Like half dollar? He is having a concert here this Friday? Maybe...possibly...no?
Them: (A blank gaze, which I interpreted as "what is wrong with Americans?")
Us: Is there a concert here Friday?
Them: No. (pause) Do you have any Coke?
Us: No, sorry, we don't have any Coca-Cola. OK, thanks! Have a nice day!

And, thus, no 50 Cent concert in Congo. At least for the time being. I guess we received some faulty information. But, as they say, when one 50 Cent door closes, a Papa Wemba door opens.

First, let's address the obvious question: who is Papa Wemba? Answer: A Congo musical legend. Read more about him here.

We found out Papa Wemba was having a concert from the same soda-loving source who crushed our 50 Cent plans. This man informed us that the Papa Wemba concert was happening the next Saturday and it was not going to be in the big stadium but across the street at a local club. Henry needed no more convincing. The man had him at the first "Pa" in "Papa Wemba".

Like 50 Cent, going to a Papa Wemba concert is not something I dreamed about as a small child. But so be it.

Come Saturday, we were ready to get down with the local club scene with a group of friends. We were told the concert started at 8pm. We arrived at 8:40 thinking we were going to be a little late. What we failed to consider is that we are in Congo and everything moves on Congo time. No one was there yet.

The inside of the club has a stage and the perimeter is lined with different bars. It sort of looks like a carnival for drinking. There are tables and chairs and once we walked in different waitresses tried to usher us towards their set of tables. We picked a spot and ordered some beer. We were the only non-Congolese there.

Three hours later. No performers yet. It's around this time we learn that there will be an opening act before Papa Wemba arrives. Key point: Papa Wemba is not even there yet.

It's also noteworthy to mention, whenever you find yourself out and about on the local Congo club scene, be prepared to be horrified by the bathroom conditions. My friend and I asked our waitress where the restroom was and she led us to a room which can only be described as "atrocious". It was dark. It was smelly. And you were expected to pee right on the floor. Which others had done before us. No thanks. We opted instead to pee outside, camping style, by the car. And here's a helpful hint - passed on to me and which I now pass on to you - if you open both car doors on one side and do your thing in between the open doors...it creates a bit of privacy. Sort of. Boy, are my standards gone. As I huddled between the two doors, I distinctly remember looking up at the moon and wondering "How did this happen to be in my life?".

But I digress. Finally, around the 4 hour mark, the opening band started. They were a bit crazy and a bit awesome. Dudes loved to dance. The videos posted here do not do them justice. As far as I could tell, our group was still the only non-Congolese present.

After a couple hours or so, there was still no sign of Papa Wemba. During the night, I had been feeling quite ill from various Congo related ailments and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I could live another day without the Papa Wemba experience. And so we decided to tap out for the night. As soon as we left, I had the feeling I was going to regret leaving. Of course, this was confirmed when we found out Papa Wemba arrived about 20 minutes later. On the plus side, my friend Lisa was able to get her picture taken on stage. And even without seeing Papa Wemba it was a really good and interesting night.

For future reference, for the next Papa Wemba concert, it's probably best to arrive around 1 or 2 am. At least. I also love the fact that when I made my exit from the club, it was amidst some punching and shoving between the police and people trying to get in. Oh, excuse me one moment while I scurry out under your fisticuffs. Don't mind me. Bonne soirée! Ah, the Congo nightlife. Always an experience.

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