I seriously don’t know how we got there, the majestic casino in Makeni along the Kafue road yet not playing poker like the Chinese fellows stationed not too far from ourselves but just sharing a light moment after a long day’s work- Sunday. Well if you work in the media, you will agree that there is nothing strange or unique about working on a Sunday. After arguing about who was going to foot the bill, we quickly made our orders, I wasn’t ashamed to order my Charles Glass yet Tafara shied away and ordered for some good old HO2, I thought that was pretty gay. Talked a little about work, how the Kabanana script was coming up and what we thought the viewers would really look forward to. Most dreadful though was the impending experience of juggling both Kabanana and My Own Boss seeing as they both will be going on air at the same time.
We quickly got bored with the work related issues and joined the rest of the casino in watching the repeat of the Arsenal VS Aston Villa game and of course to the amusement all the Manchester United funs including Mingeli, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa. Moving on with the wind to Big Brother Africa, I learned that the Zambian contestant was butchered out but the consolation was that the sensational Zambian songbird Mampi was gracing the show. So we had something to look forward to. Tafara kept on bragging about how much Mampi is the most happening stage performer and how she has really grown lyrically to a point where I was getting irritated. Finally, she did take the stage and I mean everyman would find her moves tantalising, the Zambian way of course, no one does it better, the old exotic men at Alfa bar will tell you why.
Strangely though, on Mampi’s second performance, Tafara was totally enraged. His bitterness was at levels I could not comprehend. I wondered why he suddenly flipped. I was really getting tempted with accusing him of being jealous because a Zambian was performing at such a big show but little did I know that what this Zimbabwean colleague of mine was going to say next would change my perception of Zambian music.
Tafara was not happy with the fact that Mampi chose to do a Salsa dance, in his view, that was very un-Zambian. My arguments lingered on with every drink that I took but between you and me Tafara struck a nerve and got me listening when he told me that the show has over 10 million viewers and said the Big Brother Show gave Mampi an opportunity to market not only herself but Zambia the real Africa. He went on saying that Mampi doing Salsa was in bad taste because the Angolans and the Brazilians do Salsa better anyway. As Tafara spoke further, I began to understand more underlying problem with the Development of Zambian music.
Most of the Musicians who are frequenting the airwaves today, talk of JK, K’Millian and who so ever is playing may have sold a few thousand copies here and there in Zambia, but they have not made it that much outside Zambia and comparing them to the like of Emmanuel Mulemena will be an insult. The reason is simple, the modern day musicians are trying to copy or imitate a kind of music that is foreign, they are trying to compete with T.I or Leona Lewis and Michael Jackson and think simply singing in vernacular makes their music Zambian. Music and culture are inseparable. Arts, dressing, poetry are all aspects of our way of life and tell volumes about who we are and where we come from. When your music doesn’t say much about where you are coming from and where you are going, do you really go far? If only Mampi could show us those Senga, Lozi, Soli, Luchazi or it is Bemba skills then she could get a contract from a Canadian promoter asking her to do a chain of live shows, not when she is trying to compete with Shakira.
Tafara went on saying that it’s much more about the dressing, the instruments and stage act that tells more about the music. Mampi’s attire did not say much about where she comes. She should take a cue from the number of tourists that come to see our traditional dances, they come to see the way we dress, our music and our performances. All because really, if we dress, sing and dance like them then there is really nothing to talk about, nothing to see.
We cannot talk about successful African musician without talking about the likes of Mirriam Makeba, Oliver Mutukudzi, Salif Keita and Yosour Ndour. One thing that you will find in common amongst all these artists is that they sing/sang African music; their music is rooted in the traditions and cultures from which they emanated. Bringing it closer to home, Maureen Lilanda is booked at most corporate functions today because her music is original and tells a story about us and who we are. The Glorious Band hit the scene and made great sells all because they sung original Zambian Music and given a proper promoter I am sure they would break international barriers.
I was pouring myself another drink when Tafara added that the success of Kwaito is because it is original South African Music blended with a bit of modernity and perhaps is the reason why it’s so big here in Zambia whereas the modern Zambian music (without a name) is unknown in South Africa. Very few artists today even know how to play guitars, worse off a piano. I interrupted the Tafara theorem and brought the fact that the South Africans have more resources and sound instruments. Then didn’t this guy make me realise how drunk I was getting! He gave me examples of great artists coming from poor countries, the likes of Oliver Mutukudzi who were able to be carve nicheon the world market by using simple and cheap African instruments and sticking to their roots. He noted that Zambia doesn’t have an industry; there is no proper plan of action for sustainable and viable industry, no statistics, there is a lot of day light piracy, poor artist management, promoters are worse and the list is endless. He said Zambia has a lot of talent and potential to mesmerise the African and international market but certain things had to be put in place. Just then the bar lady switched to Trace and Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing; I began to imagine what it would be like if MJ started singing Kalindula. Given a choice, you rather watch him or the Serenje Kalindula Band. That probably explains why in my three years of radio experience I played more American souls/Jazz than Zambian music.