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Best of The Beat on Afropop: Remembering Pepe Kalle

Beat18#1cover copy

Beat18#1PepeKalle1Pépé Kallé was big. A tall and very stout man, he was often likened to an elephant. He effortlessly carried loads of talent. He had a grand voice. And he was a huge star in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the big country that was his lifelong home. But this giant (born Jean Kabasele Yampanya in Kinshasa in 1951) embodied contrasts and surprises. Despite his extra-large size, he was an agile dancer, and though his robust baritone could boom, it could also softly croon. He loved to entertain, but he wasn’t at all vain, and he was friendly and loyal to his fellow performers and to his fans. When many Congolese musicians left their troubled country to pursue careers in Europe or America, Pépé Kallé and his band, Empire Bakuba, stayed in Kinshasa except for infrequent tours abroad–which may be why he wasn’t (and still isn’t) as well known to European and American audiences as some of his musical compatriots. To rectify that deficit, on the 17th anniversary of Pépé Kallé’s death on Nov. 28, 1998, Afropop Worldwide is reprinting the obituary by Gary Stewart, the eminent historian of Congolese music, that appeared in The Beat, and interviews conducted by CC Smith, the editor-in-chief of The Beat, with Pepe Kalle and two of the late singer’s colleagues, Lokassa Ya Mbongo and Nyboma Mwan’dido.

–Ken Braun

READ OR DOWNLOAD PDF OF THE STORY HERE: Beat18#1PepeKalle

PART TWO OF THE PEPE KALLE INTERVIEW CONTINUES HERE: Beat18#1PKintv

You may also enjoy: Afropop’s Hip Deep program, “Hidden Meanings in Congo Music.”

Pepe Kalle with his favorite singing partner, Nyboma Mwan Dido, performing “Moyibi” live in Abidjan:

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