Entertainment

Can music acts survive after death of its founders?

MUSIC is a business. Business principles apply to its success. However, unlike most other businesses, music has an element that makes it hard to function without it. This “it” is the unique component called talent or artistic talent. But this special talent is often taken for granted until it is gone.
Coca Cola Corporation was formed in 1886 and it is still going strong despite the fact that the inventor of the first version of the drink passed away over 100 years ago. The Cola Cola patents are protected by some of the strictest laws in the world. Even in Zambia, trying to violate the Coca Cola patent will result in swift justice. Yet this is a product that is over 100 years old. When you look at music, the corporations survive the times. If fact right now, the music corporations have gotten a major boost in Europe where tighter control of intellectual property will now ensue. So, whereas music corporations often survive long after its founders, can music acts survive the passing or even the departure of its founders?
The answer to the above question is actually mixed.
The Mulemena Boys were the backing group for Zambian folk and Manchancha hero Emmanuel Mulemena. When he passed away in the mid-80s, the group renamed themselves the Mulemena Boys and produced a classic album called Tribute to Emmanuel Mulemena.
The group was anchored around the soulful baritone voice of Brian Chibangu with his brilliant rhythm picks. When Brian Chibangu passed away at the peak of their fame, the Mulemena Boys soldiered on but it was not the same. Their songs without Brian did not capture the imagination of their fans with the same grasp.
Amayenge Cultural Ensemble has managed to be one of the busiest live acts in Zambia without their founder Chris Chali. In any given week, they have several bookings. The evergreen Alice Chali fronts the group. Despite this, the number of record releases has reduced tremendously. Is this a function of the dying recording industry or is the group missing the production talents of Chris Chali?
There are several international stories of acts trying to survive after the departure of a key member internationally.
Bob Marley and the Wailers were a unique brand of musicians. They made revolutionary rebellious music a commercial success. When Bob Marley died, it seemed that revolutionary roots reggae would thrive, and for a while, it seemed that way but alas it was not to be. Roots Reggae needed Bob Marley more than it admitted.
Queen, the British rock band, was an example of innovation and charisma at their ultimate. Their front man Freddy Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) was a phenomenal musical talent. Freddy Mercury however, did not do that well as a solo artiste and Queen, the band, has never found the same fame without him despite several attempts.
The band that defies the norm of struggling after the departure of a key member is the rock band ACDC. Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed it in Sydney in 1973. They were at the peak with the lead singer Bon Scott who was with them from 1974 to 1980. When he died in 1980 from alcohol poisoning, Brian Johnson replaced him and the band appeared to scale onto higher heights until Johnson left the group in 2016 due to health reasons.
So can music acts survive the passing or even the departure of its founders? The answer is sometimes. Most times it is very difficult.
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