YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
COLLINS Zulu brags of being the number one fan of the Zambia Police Service and it is for one simple reason, humour.
He believes there is so much humour in the police service that deserves to be displayed in a comical manner.
Realising the potential that lies in the service, Collins, a 28-year-old, comedian resolved to engage a manager George Phiri, popularly known as Bra Gee, to turn the tables around in the comedy sector.
In 2015, the duo developed Bwana Njombe, a character performed by Collins and a brand that is increasingly sought-after by a cross section of the public.
Bwana Njombe has turned out to be darling of police officers and high profile personalities such as the head of State and the Inspector General of Police.
Bwana Njombe is a police officer without portfolio, who for lack of a better term, is deemed as a know it all character.
“Some people call me and are sceptical about how I imitate the police service because they are of the view that they (police) are upset with me in the manner I imitate them when cracking jokes.
“But what they do not know is that the entire police service is a fan of Bwana Njombe including the Inspector General of Police and for now, I can even brag that the head of State is a fan of Bwana Njombe,” Collins says.
The character Bwana Njombe, analyses issues affecting the country in a comical way and of course never misses the word fanike in his statements.
In case you have been wondering what fanike means, loosely translated means ‘like’.
However, Collins views the word fanike differently, as a unique and powerful word that is helping in selling the brand Bwana Njombe.
“Whenever I meet people, they question me what fanike means. I give them the example of advertising. You always have to have a catchy word that will help sell the product.
“Bwana Njombe often uses fanike when starting a sentence or when connecting a sentence,” Collins says.
He says comedy is lucrative but competitive industry which calls for creativity and professionalism.
The comedy platform should aim to educate, inform and entertain the audience.
He says the basic rule of comedy is that a performer needs to ‘win’ his or her audience in the first 15 seconds, failure to which the act is doomed.
“If there is one thing that Zambians are always looking out for is something new and the corporate world will only support you if they think your brand is of value to their brand. They wouldn’t want to incorporate their brand into something that is not sellable,” he said.
He, however, laments the failure by most Zambians to honour and celebrate local artistes.
Collins feels the country possesses massive talent in comedy, which unfortunately is not celebrated.
He says Zambians should strive to celebrate local artistes by attending events to enable them realise their potential.
“Many times, we host shows but for the venue to be filled to capacity, it has to take an international artiste to be invited to that event. A South African singer Cassper Nyovest fills up a stadium all by himself and it is because of the love and support that people in that country uphold towards local artistes,” he says.
Collins testifies to the fact that comedy is a lucrative business if embraced and supported by the citizenry.
“Some Zambians feel comedy is a waste of time and yet there is money in this industry. The comedy industry can pay you 10 times more than an individual in formal employment and I can attest to this fact. All that matters is packaging and branding,” Collins says.
His passion is to treat comedy as a business as it is currently sustaining his livelihood.
“Comedy is my office. In as much as we are jokers, for me, it is a business and I take it seriously,” he says.
Collins, who is inspired by Leon Schuster, calls for unity among players if the industry is to grow and penetrate the international market.
Collins, who is also a director and producer, further laments the mentality by some Zambians to degrade local content against foreign productions.
“We see Zambians paying more to watch a foreign comedian perform but when a local comedy is set up, are Zambians willing to pay K500 for a VIP ticket? the answer is no. Why are we hesitant to celebrate our own artists?” he questioned.
Collins, who is married and has a son Asher, is of the view that comedians should draw a line between their personal lives and the act.
“If I’m going to act as Bwana Njombe everywhere I go, then there will be problems as no one will take me seriously. “I’m not Njombe at home but Collins,” he says.
His principle is to give his clients satisfaction and at the same time honour them with respect.
“My schedule is always busy and it gets to a point when I’m fully booked, some people offer to buy off the debt. But I have a principle, which is to give my clients satisfaction,” he says.
Collins believes comedians should strive to be professional when interacting with fans especially of the opposite sex.
“At times, I come across female fans that demand for selfies, even when they are with their partners. So at the end of day, one just has to be professional,” Collins says.
However, Collins share of fame in the comedy industry did not come easy as he had to shelf his talent in the quest to complete his education.
Born in a family of 10, Collins was determined to complete his education despite possessing and developing his talent while in school.
His dream was to become a pilot but little did he know that it would not be fulfilled.
“How it all started with comedy and imitations. After singer Ty2 produced his hit single smile, I used to sing the song in class and my friends were of the view I was good at imitating people,” he says.
In 2010, when Collin’s interest for comedy developed, his mother, who had noticed the talent at a tender age, introduced him to Savannah Media, the producers of the famous Kabanana drama series and he was given a role as a waiter.
Collin’s was later introduced to Lusaka play house by seasoned comedians, Terry T and Chibwe Kabwe, who noticed his potential.
He was given a platform to perform on a session for upcoming comedians dubbed the Open Mic session and he wowed the audience.
Later, he became a regular feature on MUVI Television’s Breakfast with the Boys that was hosted by Joshua and Topsy.
“I also became part of a number of productions such as shorty-culture and Bondix, which were a success and I worked on a number of projects with Frank Sibuku,” he says.
He initially developed the brand Collins the President and often imitated former President Rupiah Banda.
“One thing that I have learnt over the years is that you need to be persistent and you need to have the zeal to make it in life,” he says.
Collins, who went to Ngwerere, Thornpark and Kross schools, aims to grow and establish the brand Bwana Njombe at an international level.
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka