Pepe Kalle, 1951-1998

Pepe Kalle (Kabasele Yampanya), from Zaire, was a well-known and respected bandleader and singer. He died unexpectedly on November 28, 1998. Survived by his wife and five children, the cause of death was apparently a heart attack.

Born in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1951, Pepe Kalle got his start with the band of Le Grand Kalle (Joseph Kabasele), named African Jazz. He started his own band in 1970, and in 1972 formed Empire Bakuba. Shirtly thereafter he moved to Paris to achieve a greater degree of recognition.

Due to his size and stage presence, Kalle earned the nicknames "La Bombe Atomique," "The Giant Of Africa", and most notably "The Elephant of Zaire." His many recordings included the apt-titled Larger Than Life L'Argent Ne Fait Pas Le Bonheur, and Moyibi, a collaboration with the vocalist Nyboma from Quatre Etoiles.

After his death, the Congolese government decreed that all musical performances be halted in respect to this giant of African music. His mark is forever made on the World Music scene, and he will be missed.