Reader’s responses to 80s music scene in Zambia

IN RESPONSE to last week’s column about 80s music scene in Zambia, ethnomusicologist Eugene Simenda Mbanacele writes: “Good write up brother Ballad.

“One needs to understand that the 80s barely marked two decades (20 years) of independence in Zambia.
“The population of the so-called indigenous elite was just a small percentage of the whole Zambian population. To rule that the elite despised kalindula might not be correct. Another thing, Kalindula has almost been made synonymous with traditional Zambian music. This ought to be corrected.
Kalindula is just one of the many Zambian traditional music styles! Amayenge singing ‘Tie yaka’ is not Kalindula. Amayenge singing ‘Ba Pondola Bana’ is not Kalindula.
My point is; Kalindula is not the signature of Zambian traditional music style. Zambia has many traditional music styles!
“It was not the lads emanating from the elite families who birthed Zamrock.
It was people like Derick Mbao of the Musi o Tunya fame, Rikki Illilonga, and Jaggari Chanda who all came from humble Zambian homes. The desire to follow and swallow the Western sounds was merely personal. Secondary schools had an influence too. The church had an influence too.
“Zambia Broadcasting Services (worse). Lads met and exchanged records/ lyrics etc and imitated the Western sounds of guitars etc. The mid 70s circa mid 80s are the golden age of Zamrock.
“In my opinion Kalindula per se starts having strong roots circa mid 80s onwards. It is the youth who were in towns who were castigated for liking disco etc. over authentic traditional music.
“In the villages the normal still existed. I personally attended sundowns were both traditional and popular music was played. People were and are still playing ‘Babatone.’ “Again, even the so-called elite were actually really not so knowledgeable in terms of music appreciation and analysis. Very few Zambians to date can tell us who Beethoven is!
Keith Mlevhu had a hard time trying to market his music. He was considered too classical.
“Read this article by brother Koloko (2020) to fully comprehend and to appreciate what I have said so far. Keith
Mlevhu: The Great ‘One Man Band’ from Chingola. https://tiozambia.com/keith-mlevhu-thegreat- one-man-band-from-chingola/
“The seeds of inferiority was not planted in the 80s. It was and is a product of proper colonisation. Anything and every African was labelled inferior, pagan or demonic.
This concept and principle cut across; religion, music, education, politics etc. You are right it happened earlier (colonialism) is the culprit.
“In a nutshell, accepting western music had nothing to do with one’s status. Lazarus Tembo was an educated man (yet) he chose to play folk music. Smokey Hangala was an educated man he chose to play all kinds of music including Zambian traditional music styles. The list is endless.
“Tazara Railway Njanji (Chambeshi Lifers) was done in a purely traditional style. No modern instruments at all. Only vocals and a drum and we appreciated and still appreciate that music.
“Ethnomusicology is the branch of music that seeks to answer the questions you have raised.
This write up is a small attempt to provoke others to add more. Your own music embraced the aspects of traditional and popular Western vibes.”
Eugene raises some very valid points and critical points. One of the critical points he raises borders on what kalindula is?
According to a Wikipedia “Kalindula is a kind of bass guitar which gives its name to a style of popular music in southerncentral Africa. It originated in the late 20th century and is popular in Zambia and is also found in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Some people claim it originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo but this cannot be fully supported by the evidence. It combines features of 20th century popular music with rhythmic and metric elements.
“The kalindula musical style is characterised by an up-tempo rhythm and, in addition to the kalindula bass guitar, one or more hand-crafted guitars which are called ‘banjos’ (pronounced locally as ‘bahn-jo’). Homemade drum sets are also used in some kalindula bands. Kalindula bands in urban areas often incorporate electric guitars, electric bass and modern drum sets into their ensembles.”
In the Southern Province, kalindula bands compete to participate in the annual Tonga Music Festival sponsored by Chikuni Radio station. Winning groups are offered recording contracts by the radio station and their tapes are sold in markets throughout the province. Current favorites in the Southern Province are Green Mamba and
Mashombe Blue Jeans. Amayenge, winners of the 2005 Ngoma Music Award, are another well-known and long-established group, together with Distro Kuomboka band, winners of several regional and national awards as ‘Best Band’, who dominate the Kalindula scene on the Copperbelt.
So, we have two varying definitions of Kalindula.
According to the ethnomusicologist Eugene above, he sees kalindula as an ethnic music form emanating from one part of Zambia. According to the Wikipedia definition provided above, kalindula is defined as united by its metrics, its style. If you go by the second definition kalindula can have different flavours, Western, Northwestern, Luapulan etc. or Kaonde, Ngumbo, Nsenga, Lozi etc, but when you hear it, you will know it is kalindula. What is my take on this?
I sway more to the second definition where kalindula defines a Zambian national sound that is close to our immediate ethnic sound. By immediate I mean perhaps the last 100 years because even rock has its roots in Africa but that style was transplanted from Africa 400 years ago and the two sounds, though having the same source, are different due to the time that has elapsed and the different trajectories of influences on genres.
The promotion of Zambian pop music resembling traditional music under the banner of kalindula took root with Teal Record company and the WOMAD festivals. We needed a term for this pop music and kalindula, despite the fact
that it may have emanated from one part of Zambia became the term to market the music form with. Some may be uncomfortable with that but as a term to market Zambian music of a particular genre it in convenient. It is harder to market it in its flavours of manchancha, shonongo, akalela, sioma, etc. How are terms for music forms adopted? That is a discussion for another day.
Send your comments to balladzulu@ gmail.com

Facebook Feed