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Antoine Wendo Kolosoy (April 25, 1925 – July 28, 2008) — known as Papa Wendo — was a Congolese musician. He was considered the “Father” of Congolese rumba music, a musical style blending rumba, beguine, waltz, tango and cha-cha.
Wendo was born in 1925 in Mushie territory, Mai-Ndombe Province (now District of Plateaux in Bandundu Province) of western Congo, then under Belgian colonial rule. His father died when he was seven, and his mother, a singer herself, died shortly thereafter. He was taken to live in an orphanage run by the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, and remained there until he was 12 or 13, expelled when the fathers disapproved of the lyrics of his songs. Wendo began playing guitar and performing at age 11.
Kolosoy became a professional singer almost by chance after having worked also as a boxer, sailor and longshoreman in Congo, Cameroon and Senegal. From 13 Wendo traveled as a worker on the Congo River ferries, and entertained passengers on the long trips. Between 1941 and 1946 he traveled as a sometime professional boxer, as far from home as Dakar, Senegal.
His birthname was Antoine Kalosoyi (also spelled Nkolosoyi), which he eventually regularised to Kolosoy. Later he was called “Windsor” (a homage to the Duke of Windsor and a play on the British Royalty theme of his band “Victoria Kin”) which evolved into “Wendo Sor” and simply “Sor”. He is most widely known as Wendo or Papa Wendo .
In the mid 1940s, he began playing guitar around the capital Kinshasa (then Leopoldville) with his Cuban style band Victoria Bakolo Miziki. He had met Nicolas Jéronimidis, a Greek businessman, on a steamer returning to Leopoldville from Dakar in 1946, and in 1947 Jéronimidis agreed to record Wendo’s music for his new Leopoldville based record label “Ngoma”.
Imitating the bandleader Paul Kamba, Wendo and Me Taureau Bateko created the “Victoria Kin” orchestra, which later became “Victoria Bakolo Miziki”, recording for Ngoma, but also other Congolese labels. Fronted by Wendo’s echoing and soaring vocals, the group was also famous for is dancers, called “La reine politesse” directed by Germaine Ngongolo. 
Wendo and Victoria Bakolo Miziki released their first full record in 1949, “Mabele ya mama” which Wendo dedicated to his late mother.
His first international hit, in 1948, was “Marie-Louise”, co-written with guitarist Henri Bowane. Through the publicity of “Radio Congolia”, along with the controversy which followed the song (a back-and-forth between Wendo and Henri over Wendo’s pursuit of a girl, thwarted by Henri’s wealth, with salacious undertones), the song became a success throughout West Africa. With its success came trouble: the song had “satanic” powers attributed to it by Catholic religious leaders. Stories from the time even claimed that the song, if played at midnight, could raise the dead. The furor drove Wendo out of Kinshasa, and resulted in a brief imprisonment by the Belgian authorities in Stanleyville and his excommunication from the Catholic Church.  The combination of African lyrics and vocals with Afro-Cuban Rumba rhythms and instrumentation spawned one of the most successful African musical genres: Soukous. Wendo’s time on the ferries also contributed to his success as one of the first “national” artists of the DRC: he learned the music of the ethnic groups up and down the river, and later sang not only in his native tongue of Kikongo, but also in fluent Lingala and Swahili.
Wendo’s success rested upon the burgeoning radio stations and record industry of late colonial Leopoldville, which often piped music over loudspeakers into the African quarters, called the “Cite”. A handful of African clubs (closing early with a 9:30PM cerfew for non-Europeans) like “Congo Bar” provided venues, along with occasional gigs at the upscale white clubs of the European quarter, “La ville”. The importation of European and American 78 rpm records into Africa in the 30s and 40s (called G.V. Series records) featured much Cuban music, a style that was enjoyed by cosmopolitan Europeans and Africans alike. One writer has argued that this music, sophisticated, based on Africa music, and not produced by white colonialists especially appealed to Africans in general, and newly urban Congolese in particular. Greek and Lebanese merchants, a fixture in colonial Francophone Africa were amongst the first to bring recording and record pressing equipment to tropical Africa. Jéronimidis’ “Ngoma” company was one of the first and most successful, and Wendo was his star artist. Jéronimidis, Wendo, and other musicians, barnstormed around Belgian Congo in a brightly painted Ngoma van, performing and selling records. The music culture this created not only propelled Congolese Rumba to fame, but began to develop a national culture for the first time.
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