Entertainment Music

What was Daddy Zemus’ legacy?

WHEN he talks about how Antony Kafunya, better known to most people as Daddy Zemus, has not been given his rightful place in Zambian music, he sounds like one of those Hillsborough Justice Campaign members fighting for justice for the 96.
The 96, for those unfamiliar with the story, are the Liverpool Football Club supporters who died during the Football Association Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989 at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.
The media coverage of the tragedy rushed to judgment, and unqualified blame was directed against Liverpool fans.
This led to a two-decade long campaign by Hillsborough Justice Campaign and the city of Liverpool, demanding justice.
Anyhow, that is another story, albeit a long one also.
But like the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Ernest Yikona (Papa Zai), is not one to relent until his friend, who died 15 years ago at the age of 32, is given his rightful position in the history of Zambian music.
Indeed, no genuine follower of Zambian music can claim not to know Daddy Zemus – the king of Zam ragga/dancehall; his name is associated with the so-called renaissance of local music.
Admittedly, one of the serious indictments on local music since its renaissance is its superfluous nature. Call it bubble-gum!
But for Papai Zai, you cannot obviously indict Daddy Zemus on that.
“He was very well raised and cultivated, academically oriented, scientific, a visionary and philosopher. He was not just some guy who could get a beat and put together some funny rhyme from some local children’s song and make a hit of that.
He was conversant with a wide range of music forms, ideologies, and the political struggle of the African continent and the globe,” Papai Zai says.
“He did not just borrow or steal beats from Caribbean songs and pass them for his own. He knew what mambo was about, what merengue was, he knew what soca and calypso were, and what he did not master, he knew how to consult. He did have an eye for quality, with a broad sense of aesthetic appreciation from cuisine through fine arts to poetry and music.
“He read a lot of books. He was no stranger to Frantz Fanon or Walter Rodney. Musically he was also in touch with a wide range of scenes…The Jamaican scene was what we knew best since we were dealing with rasta and reggae at that time.”
Daddy Zemus’ self-consciousness started at Kabulonga Secondary School in Lusaka together with the likes of Augustine Lungu and Maiko Zulu. It was further enhanced through the gathering of the Rasta community at the University of Zambia grounds where they used to meet every Saturday.
These gatherings had Rastafarians of different walks; from university students through carpenters and marketeers to musicians.
Among the musicians was a group called Zion Dub Squad, to which Daddy Zemus belonged and which Papa Zai joined later. This group had previously been called the Twelve Tribes, and included Ernest “Eki” Mazonga, Papa Meeky Mazingaliwa, Chilombo Munkanta and Ras Tom or Ras Tammuz (Dr Mwewa Kapakala).
The name Zion Dub Squad was coined by Brian Shakarongo, who with Papa Zai and Ras Tammuz, were probably the three most influential people in shaping Zemus’ way of thinking as a musician and a philosopher.
And when Shakarongo started organising the annual reggae festivals at Munda Wanga gardens, he provided a platform for many un-exposed reggae musicians to come to the fore.
“Those days there were no live concerts to be found anywhere in Lusaka except in bars and far out places like River Motel in Kafue, and the Barn Motel on Great East Road. Amayenge were the most dominant band of the time. The events that Shakarongo promoted became the biggest, most active and most popular live music events in Lusaka,” Papa Zai recalls.
In those circles, Zion Dub Squad, Zem and Zai, Burning Youth with Michael Kumwenda and Shakarongo combination were the acts that expressed traits of dancehall mixed with various forms of reggae including roots and steppers.
“Those days rappers, funk and reggae singers sang in English. Maoma did try some reggae in ChiNyanja in the 80s, and Larry Maluma came in with Chakolwa on a Zambianised reggae rhythm. Michael Kumwenda and Alan Tembo of the Burning Youth did reggae in Tumbuka and ChiNyanja but it had not yet caught on as a hit. We have people like Ballard Zulu and his Cook On hit which was a very Zambian song in a very international presentation. With people like Victor Kachaka, they came up with the naïve touch,” he says.
Shakarongo spent a lot of time sharing his expertise with them, and showing them videos of live performances featuring a wide-range of artistes from African legends to the latest Jamaican dancehall artistes of the time, with intent to expose them.
“Zemus’ main musical influences during his transition were Shabba Ranks and Paul Ngozi. Ngozi also Nyanjalised his version of rock music fused with local blends. Shabba Ranks represented cross-over success and the ragamuffin style that he adopted as his style of expression,” Papai Zai says.
“Zemus was motivated by the will to succeed, so he started evolving as a musician and as a thinker to explore various sounds, diverging from his earlier Rasta roots reggae foundation. Zemus created his own style and brought in the other guys to flavour it with particular cross-over elements.”
His new direction as a singer was first manifest in his first album, Salaula. As the man who produced that album and programmed all instrumentation, Papa Zai believes that this was the birth of what many people are calling Zambian music today, and this is how Daddy Zemus’ direction, and indeed the direction of the Zambian music scene, was re-defined forever.
“If there were to be a Hall of Fame in Zambia, I would wish to see the memory of Daddy Zemus associated with such great game changers like Alick Nkhata, Paul Ngozi, and Chris Chali/Amayenge. Very few deserve a monument as much as Daddy Zemus does. If the industry he has given such a big boost does not do it for him, I will do it myself for my friend.”

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