Fally Ipupa is one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s biggest stars.
His song Un Coup, featuring Congolese-French singer Dadju, for example, has been viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube, and his live performances attract thousands of fans.
In fact, so many people were desperate to see him perform in DR Congo’s capital last year that Kinshasa’s Stadium of Martyrs was over-full and there was a crush at the end.
Initial reports from the government said that 11 people lost their lives. According to Ipupa and the BBC’s Kinshasa reporter, this figure was never conclusively confirmed.
This is not the only one of Ipupa’s concerts that ended up in the news. When he performed in France in 2020, there were riots outside the venue in Paris with protesters setting fire to bins and motorbikes.
It was all linked to politics. For the last decade members of the diaspora have tried to stop Congolese musicians from performing in Europe, in order to show their opposition to politicians back home.
They have accused big stars of being too close to power and of failing to speak out against abuses happening in DR Congo.
So it is a big moment for Fally Ipupa that for the first time in his career he is finally due to perform in London. His concert will be in December, when elections are scheduled to be held back home.
The 45-year-old singer and his management tell me that an agreement has now been reached with sceptical Congolese communities and he is set to perform again in Paris and Brussels.
“Most of the people know now that I don’t do political things, I am just a musician and they have realised that you cannot punish your child all his life,” he said.
Ipupa does have some sympathy for those who boycotted his concerts but he feels it is time to move past politics and support DR Congo’s music industry.
“I agree that things were happening politically which were not correct in DR Congo, and I’ve always told them that I agree with certain of the protesters who wanted to get the message across and raise awareness in people.
“But now the time has come to say look guys, we have punished the artists, we have slowed down Congolese culture, it’s time to show the world that we have very, very strong music.”
He feels that Congolese music has really suffered, losing its place in Europe to music from Nigeria, Ghana and Jamaica. Nigerian Afrobeats artists are now filling the major venues that Congolese artists used to fill 10 years ago. But he is confident that this can change.
“Congolese music is one of the most beautiful and rich, we have many talented artists, so if our brothers and sisters in Europe say no more blocking of Congolese music in Europe trust me we’re going to take our place in the world,” he said.