When people hear the term ‘King James Version’ (KJV), the first thing that pops into their minds is the Bible. However, on the Zambian music scene the term brings to mind something very different. It breeds thoughts of a revolutionary artist, better known for his work as a producer and songwriter, named James Kingsley Sakala popularly known as ‘King James’. WHEN people hear the term ‘King James Version’ (KJV), the first thing that pops into their minds is the Bible.
However, on the Zambian music scene the term brings to mind something very different.
It breeds thoughts of a revolutionary artist better known for his work as a producer and songwriter, named James Kingsley Sakala popularly known as ‘King James’.
King James discovered his artistic side in 2003 while doing community drama and training in popular theatre in Mkushi.
“I actually discovered I could sing when they made me the lead singer of the drama group,” James recounts.
Using drama for community mobilization helped him discover that he could sing and in 2005 he left Mkushi for Lusaka to try his luck at fashioning a music career.
The music scene proved not to be an easy industry to break into and James recalls some valuable advice he was given by one of Zambia’s popular artists.
“At one point I had an in-depth conversation with Joe Chibangu and he gave me good advice. He explained to me that the problem which most up and coming artists have in Zambia is that they want to be instant celebrities. Most people don’t realize that they have to sharpen their skills to become a star," he says.
After a rough start James returned to Mkushi where unwittingly his big break came. At a Leo Moyo (popularly known as K’millian) concert, James was pushed on stage to sing ‘Naliyendele’ and things began to look up from there.
K’millian recognized potential in him and encouraged him look him up next time he was in Lusaka so that he could help him begin his career.
After three years away, having sharpened his vocal skills and guitar playing, he arrived in Lusaka once again.
K’millian took him to Sling Beats studio which was run by Charlie Mulalami A.K.A Bravo. Though the terms of this alliance seemed to be bittersweet at the time, he has now come to appreciate the lessons learnt from working at Sling Beats.
“When I met Bravo he explained to me that the studio couldn’t take me on but he offered me a deal. He said if I could find the money needed to record an album, they would charge me half price,” he recalls.
King James says he went back to Mkushi and managed to raise K1, 500 and when he got back to the studio he eagerly recorded 8 songs but none of them were released.
At that time, he discloses that people may not have appreciated his music but King James did not let that kill his self-esteem.
“At first I was disappointed but I came to understand that there is time for everything,” he says.
King James contented himself with singing as K'millian's back up artist, and travelled with him when he had shows in places like Nakonde and even the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
During his stay in Lusaka he met the late musician, Webby Chilufya popularly known as Krystal Shawn, and the two became friends.
He explains that in November 2008, Krystal Sean took him to Villa Elizabetta to a studio called Uniq records where he met future colleague and friend, producer Lukundo Siwale A.K.A Superman. Superman was the first person to give King James a proper audition. Having heard his amazing voice, Superman recommended him to join his label.
With things looking up and yearning to learn something new as always, James under the mentorship of Superman started training as a producer in 2009.
“I decided to try my hand at producing. I learned a lot of what I know from producers like Francis 'Drakes' Chuulu, Taonga 'Taz' Sakala and Tamula Mwale,” James explains.
He has been described by the artists he has worked with as a visionary and a revolutionary artist. James describes his music as a blend of Kalindula and Afro Jazz.
Rapper and Poet Amory Kapufi A.K.A Magnifire describes King James as a humble, easy going guy who is attentive to the people he works with.
“He is a visionary. That’s what makes his afro pop special. He has a unique way of urbanizing Kalindula. He writes in many Zambian languages and his stuff really cuts across, the depth and content of his music go beyond the norm,” he says.
Magnifire adds that King James is a disciplined person. He attributes this to the fact that King James knows martial arts and so he is able to apply the same principles to his art.
Agatha Musonda whose stage name is Proverb 31, describes James as a professional who knows what he’s doing.
“I like that he takes the time to know you individually as an artist as he works with you. He is very original, an all-rounder cutting across all genres,” she says.
As a producer, King James has worked with different talented artists such as Mampi, Salma, Scarlet, 2wo1ne, Krystal Shawn and K'millian.
James has also written songs for various artists such as 'Nga nali ishibe' for Kray J which featured CQ, Mampi’s 'Chimwemwe' as well as Salma, Scarlet, Samba, Maureen Lilanda, Sepiso, and Angela Nyirenda.
James is currently working at So’ Good Entertainment which was birthed in 2010