ZAMBIAN MUSIC THEN AND NOW! THE EVOLUTION
If you lived in the 1980s or at least grew up in the 1990s you probably remember musical bands such as the Mulemena Boys or solo artists such as Paul Ngozi or Joyce Nyirongo.
If at all you did not grow up in the 1990s, you would still probably remember your grandparents, your parents or your older siblings talking about these great musicians. With the knowledge that you have or at least the little knowledge that you have, let us take a walk down memory lane in the Zambian Music Industry.
Music in the 1980s and 90s was more about teachings than dancing as we hear in today’s songs. They talked more about the problems people were going through in their homes for example Joyce Nyirongo in her song titled ‘Mate’, sings of a woman leaving her matrimonial house going back to her parents’ house because her husband’s family is one that is ungrateful. Unhappy as she is, she still decides to walk away.
Paul Ngozi in his ‘Alungu’ song talks about a crooked wife who is sent for fish business in Kafue by the husband but while there, she decides to get married to a fisherman. Once or twice you might have heard of women getting married when they go for business.
During this Era Zambian music has a distinctive sound, they don’t really do drums but then real African-Zambian vibe is heard most, if not all of the songs.
As we keep walking down memory lane of the Zambian Music Industry, we reach the late 1990s. This is the time that we start listening to the pioneers’ of the current music, the likes of the late Joe Chibangu under the Mondo Music Crew being led by Chisha Folotiya. Most of us are probably familiar with the beginning of this new Era of Zambian music.
This is the time I would refer to as the beginning of ‘R&B’ in Zambia. The sound moves away from what Paul Ngozi would do and move more towards the western world as they sing more about love.
A new millennium definitely called for a whole turn and twist in the music industry as we see that in the early and mid-2000s a lot more young Zambian artists take up what the pioneers’ started and we listen to the likes of Mundia Mukubesa commonly known as ‘Petersen Zagaze’, Danny Siulapwa better known as ‘Danny Kaya’ and Winston Moyo, just to mention a few.
At this point musicians are very creative in their lyrics, rap music is also more familiar as being done by Zambian artists and we listen to Mwila Musonda popularly known as ‘Slap Dee’.
Fast forward to 2019 and Zambian music has been diversified to a point where fans choose which genre to listen to. From the sweet and soulful RnB vibes of Roberto to the dance sounds of 408 empire, from Slap Dees’ bars of rap to the conscience vibes of ‘B-Flow’, one has a variety to pick from.
In a phone interview with Petersen Zagaze he explained that artists these days target different audiences hence musicians tailor make their lyrics to best suit their fans.
“it would be unfair to group artists in one basket, from Mumba Yachi to Slap Dee and from Amayenge to Roberto is a very big gap targeting difference audiences, even myself the audience I targeted 16 years ago has moved from the music they listened to then, its either I target a new audience or just change the way I do music to still fit the people who listened to me 16 years ago,” he said.
Petersen further added that unlike back in the days when people would literally sing about anything and everything, most artists today sing about love and dance because they fear being labeled as political.
Magnus Mando alias Magg 44 a music producer explained that from the time Zambia got its independence, the music industry has really grown though there has not been proper hand over from one generation to the next.
“From the Zamrock and Kalindula era to the Ballard Zulu and Victor Kachaka era we did not see a hand over, the same happened from the Victor Kachaka era to the Daddy Zemus times and from Daddy Zemus to the black muntu era” he explained.
Magnus further said that unlike in many countries where big artists mentor young ones who take up after them , it has not been the case in Zambia though it has started happening now as we see people like ‘Chef 187’ who were mentored by ‘Macky 2’ becoming big artists .
Asked where he sees the Zambian music industry in the next 5-10 years Petersen Zagaze said he cannot predict which genre will dominant more but he is sure that the industry will be vast and known in different regions as people like Roberto and himself are already touring the global and winning international awards.
“The industry has a bright future, people like Roberto are touring the global and winning international awards most people do not know about this because our country does not have many entertainment journalists to follow up with these artists,” he said.
While it might have been hard to put out their music in the early days of the Zambian Music Industry, Esther Chungu a gospel musician said with the coming in of technology, today’s musicians use different and much easier media platforms to share the music with their fans. Some use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Zambian music has indeed gone through an evolution worth talking about and with proper structures and management of artists its future seems so bright than ever before.
Whether kalindula or RnB, dancehall or conscience, music is indeed food to the inner individual that no one can understand.