Fally Ipupa finally enters the arena, Jeune Afrique
Fally Ipupa finally takes to the arena
No less than 40 is the number of places that Fally Ipupa promised to sell to fill the imposing Arena of La Défense. Not far from the stadium, when we find him a few weeks before his show, after having suffered two appointment cancellations and a two-hour delay (the fault of his staff, we warn), the Congolese star prides himself on being close to the goal.
The organization had initially opened a capacity of 36 seats, but Fally Ipupa preferred to count larger to host an African-style show, with a delegation of 000 people, musicians, dancers and technicians included.
At 45, the Congolese star likes challenges. “I prefer to be the guide rather than the follower,” he admits, sure of himself and his talent. But he has something to brag about. Already in 2007, he became the first Congolese artist of his generation to play a sold-out show closed at the Olympia. Ten years later, the ex-protege of Koffi Olomide saw his fourth album, Tokooss, be certified gold. A first, once again, for a singer from the DRC.
And to mark more than two decades of career, it is not one arena but three that the gladiator of Congolese rumba has planned to invest in for his end-of-year tour, from Paris to London, at the OVO Arena (12 seats), via Belgium, to the Ing Arena (500 seats), all in three weeks. A marathon worthy of the “Supreme Warrior”.
In the imposing skyscraper of the Hyatt hotel, strategically located between La Défense and the Champs-Élysées, the conqueror, his iconic black frames framing his gaze, looks serene. However, we barely have time to exchange greetings when one of his team members hands him a cell phone. Le singer will put the discussion on loudspeaker. On purpose or not, we won't know.
At the end of the line, the prosecutor's office of the King of Belgium, who informed him of the presence of fighters in the territory, a few weeks before his performance in Brussels. “Terrorist organization,” we hear. The word is out. “There are a lot of reports. The police are very aware of the situation and have more or less identified the heads, so I am positive. Regarding La Défense, we had numerous meetings with the Paris prefecture and the police. We are still in France. So I am very calm. Nothing will happen,” he puts things into perspective, after hanging up.
The star has suffered for years the threat of these groups of radical Congolese opponents who, in Europe, criticize Congolese artists for supporting the power in place et prevent, in particular by resorting to violence, the holding of their concerts. In 2017, his date at La Cigale was canceled by the Paris police headquarters due to the risk of demonstrations. Three years later, his performance at the Accor Arena in Bercy sparked a spectacular fire at the Gare de Lyon, a stone's throw from the concert hall.
“I have friends who are fighters, but real ones, not people who proclaim themselves fighters for their own interests, who take the fight as a business,” he accuses. I don't respect them. I respect the real fighters who advocate peace in Congo and Africa. We don't raise awareness by hitting women in France. Imagine if these people take power in Congo? They are going to exterminate people. I will never give in to these people ", he says.
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If Fally Ipula does not mince his words and does not hesitate to express himself on the subject, it is because he is aware that he is expected on these questions. He who uses his influence and his image with strong men, and who is therefore accused of being in the pay of the authorities, must be able to justify himself. In February 2023, he was seen posing in the Pompadour salon at the Élysée alongside Emmanuel Macron, just before the French president's tour of Central Africa. The next day, the singer's car and one of his houses in Kinshasa were set on fire. Which did not prevent “the Eagle” from posing again with the French head of state during an evening in Kinshasa, a month later, accompanied by Patrick Muyaya, spokesperson for the Congolese government. A cliché which immediately triggered the controversy.
But the singer denies it. To the words “bringing together of power”, he prefers ceux of “impact communication”. “I have never campaigned for politicians, I have never openly supported one. I care about the people. If I am told that to save the Congolese people, we must go to a meeting where there are heads of state to try to bring about even a small change, I will go, support- he. Because we can only change things by being active and coming up with ideas. »
Among these, the establishment of a humanitarian airlift from March to May 2023, to assist Goma, in eastern DRC, where rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) took up arms again. An operation for which 80 million euros could be released by France and the European Union, and which Ipupa welcomes. He also mentions the financing of a medical ambulance to the tune of 40 euros sent at the general hospital of Goma, and a donation to the soldiers who fight the M23. “But I am not the only one taking action. "Artists are performing, at the risk of their lives, in Goma itself, to support the populations affected by the fighting", wishes to underline the one who, with the approach of the general elections in the DRC, hopes for a transparent electoral process, in which the people will be able to find each other. “I wish my country that famine is eradicated and security restored throughout the territory. »
If Fally Ipupa rules out any political future, he is nevertheless a regular at meetings with heads of state and willingly takes on the status of decision-maker. Invited to United States – Africa summit in December 2022, in the presence of Félix Tshisekedi, he met American President Joe Biden during a gala dinner in Washington. Ten years earlier, it's a different president American, Barack Obama, who received him at the Young African Leaders Initiative. While, on two occasions, the singer-leader was received at the table of Prince Albert of Monaco and took the opportunity to talk about the situation in his country. So many handshakes and pleas which allowed him, he said, to carry out projects for the foundation which bears his name and which celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 13, 2023 with a major concert in Kinshasa.
“I repainted schools, I bought land to build orphanages. Every year, I release insolvent mothers held prisoner in maternity wards in Congo, I put water in Kisenso, an isolated commune of more than 20 inhabitants, I plan the construction of a maternity ward in Bandal this year” , he lists in response to his detractors. Fally Ipupa, also a peace ambassador for Unicef, sa leaves and would like to emphasize this.
Helping hands and publicity stunts which do not prevent him from concentrating on his career, which is already well underway. “I am one of the artists who released rumba albums which worked and which still work. Formula 7, my latest album [three volumes released in June 2023], it’s pure rumba,” slips the one who doesn’t care who owns the title of king of rumba. He claims to be worthy heir of Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomidé, says he is proud to see Congolese rumba listed as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage and explains its longevity by its ability to renew itself, sometimes drawing from the traditional Mongo repertoire, sometimes from current music.
At the intersection of the old and the new generation, Ipupa is unanimous. He matters among his collaborations Youssou N'Dour and Charlotte Dipanda, but also Afropop heavyweights, like the Nigerian Wizkid, and feats with stars of the French-speaking urban scene, ranging from Aya Nakamura to Youssoupha, from Booba to MHD, passing through Ninho and Dadju, on the diaspora side. “I have always said it, you have to know how to take risks to last. I am lucky to have a vision. I try, I mix ingredients with local folklore to create real Fally-style sauces,” he explains. A recipe that is already being emulated. Gaz Mawete, But na Filet, Splendeur Mbongo, Ibrator Mpiana, Dj Virus or Petit Fally, he doesn't dry up when it comes to naming the next generation. “I am still active but there is a new generation who will continue the work,” assures Fally, who is however not ready to to leave the arena.
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