Blog April 14, 2022
25-Year Wenge Musica Face-Off Appears to End

If reports like this one are to be believed, the longest, fiercest feud in modern African music has finally been resolved. Wenge Musica burst on the Congo music scene in 1981 with Aimé Buanga and Didier Masela on guitars, Werrason, Machiro Kifaya and Papy Sanji on vocals. When vocalist JB Mpiana joined the following year, Wenge was on its way to becoming the top band in this super-charged dance music genre. They spearheaded the ndombolo movement and dominated it until 1997, when the group split into two factions, one led by Werrason, the other by Mpiana.

The dispute between the two singers went well beyond money and style. It became a matter of identity for fans of the two groups and led to violence on a number of occasions. But miraculously this month, the two finally sat down and reconciled, agreeing to a June concert with something like the original lineup, and plans to record a new album.

This is potentially a landmark moment, not only for Congolese music, but for African cultural affairs in general. If a rivalry this intense and persistent can be settled at last, imagine what similarly hostile politicians might accomplish.

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