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Let’s revive, preserve Zambian music

LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
FOLLOWING my write-up about the mediocrity that has continued to wallow in mediocrity because of the obsession of our singers with foreign rhythms I received two interesting reactions from two keen readers of this column.
The first one came from Chrispin Kasongo Changwe of Zambia Railways in Kabwe, a music enthusiast while the second was sent by musician and instrumentalist Lazarous Chewe of Lusaka.
Below are their views on the matter.

“Greetings Ba Chisala,
I read your well-written article with great enthusiasm and admiration. In Zambia it is a rare opportunity to read in a national newspaper a musical article with the intention of bringing out issues that are missing in our music industry.
My intention here is basically to echo your statements and add what, in my view as a musician and instrument player, we face as musicians in music composition and presentation.
External influence
Historically, contemporary Zambian musician started from Alick Nkhata, Emmanuel Mulemena, The Great Witch, Keith Mulevu, Riki Ililonga and the enigmas Nasho Pichen Kazembe.
All these musicians played music that was not indigenous but sung in local languages, a trend which has continued up to this day. 
I will also go a step further, PK Chisala, technically his instrument (guitar) arrangement was heavily effluence by Rhumba, not akalindula as I know it technically.
The above scenario to me is the chief reason why Zambian musicians of today have a problem with cultural identity musically.
The foundation laid by the first generation musicians does not accord them a platform to allow them identify their musical history.
Instrumentation, fusion
Zambia has a lot of music genres and unique traditional instruments to work with. Unfortunately, we’re confronted with a music culture crash. Today a musician works in a computer age where music can be produced without using a musical instrument.
As an instrument player what is now important is how one can fuse in an instrument such as itumba etc in music and still remain relevant in this complex world of music where many Zambians are exposed to a lot of music genres of their liking both in Zambia and outside.
Breaking it internationally
Many African musicians that have made it internationally come from former French colonies with strong connections with European recording companies exclusively dealing in African music and concert organisers particularly in Paris.
The French cultural policy in colonies they colonised was and is still much better than the British who had very little interest in the culture of natives in the colonies they controlled. Alliance Francise is a good example here in Lusaka.
Zambian music industry
Zambia does not have a music industry in the true sense of the word. Music in Zambia is still largely an amateur’s playground. For the music industry to thrive, a domestic market must be created, including music infrastructure and music production houses.
Unfortunately, the population of Zambia is largely ‘Lazalo’ based (poor). Zambians have more pressing problems such as putting food on the table and I’m pretty sure they’re not prepared to fork out K150 to watch a Zambian music act; that is way out of their pocket’s reach.
Zambian media vs music
The media must play a role in the promotion of music in Zambia. They must be there as watch dogs, be critical to mediocre music.
Paul Ngozi, during his hey days in 1970s, was heavily criticised by the media for signing songs in poor English. 
This compelled Ngozi to switch to vernacular and started singing in Nyanja. The results are there for all to see.
He is one of the very few old musicians whose music is played on radio and still in public domain and more popular today compared to other musicians who continued singing in English.
Role of ZNBC
ZNBC [Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation] can play a very important role in the promotion and improvement of the image of Zambian music.
But we face a challenge, the institution hasn’t created an effective real music/art platform to tap creative original art/musical Zambian minds. To me ZNBC is a closed shop. It hasn’t adopted any policy to promote indigenous music as was the case in the past.  
Lazarous Chewe, RW1 Ridgeway, Lusaka.
Mobile: +260 977 354 828
Email: chewelazarus@yahoo.com”

“Mr Chisala,
Thanks for the articles you write in the Sunday Mail. They are very educative, informative and entertaining, too.
Like all the articles, I loved today’s on Zambian music. People do not know what music is. It is not just anything that can make noise, NO.
It must be something that has a message and rich rhythms and will play for many years to come. I love ‘Old Zambian Music’ played by the likes of Nashil Pitchen Kazembe, PK Chishala, Masasu, Mashabe, Amaynge, Serenje, Lazarous Tembo, Keith M’levu, Paul Ngozi, Oliver Mtukudzi, Paul Matabvire, the list is long.
Most of these people died decades ago but their music is still playing in my home and it gives beautiful memories. They had good messages, good rhythms.
They did love songs, yes, they talked about bedroom issues, yes, but not in a manner the guys [Zed musicians] are doing it now.
The foreign musicians like Bob Marley and Franco died more than 30 years ago, but their music is also still very alive and being enjoyed by the old and the young today.
My 14-year-old boy loves Nashil Pitchen Kazembe and Bob Marley’s music.
Most of what we are listening to today is not Zambian music; it is just Zambian insults. I must be free to play music anywhere, any time and in the presence of my children.
There are a few that have some good messages, but they fail to do live music and this affects the quality of their music. They need to be coached and do better than they are doing now.
Everyone who loves Zambia and Zambian music must support the Itumba initiative by Mumba Yachi and his group.
Once again, thanks Ba Chisala.”
There you are! There is hope for our beautiful, melodious and message-packed indigenous rhythms after all.
charles_chisala@yahoo.com

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