There is a great phrase that Zambians used soon after they achieved Independence in 1964 to describe the economic pillage of their minerally rich country by white (Rhodesian/British/American) business interests: bamba zonke or ‘grab everything’.
This experience and perception that their wealth was vulnerable to wholesale, internationally-organised looting, led the long-serving President of Zambia, Kenneth Kuanda to erect thick protective walls around the country’s economy and culture. Relations were cool with the West and warm towards China, Yugoslavia and other socialist states in which Kuanda found inspiration for transforming colonial Northern Rhodesia into independent Zambia.
One of the consequences of this approach was that popular music in Zambia developed more hermetically than in other African countries. In the years right after Independence Congolese rumba was the most widely heard and enjoyed popular music in the cities and towns. Even though the Zambian Broadcasting Service established the country’s first ‘pop’ band, Lusaka Radio Band (now Big Gold Six Band) to promote a distinct Zambian music, rumba ruled the airwaves, and in hotels and bars.
In the tough, violent copper mining towns of northern Zambia the first truly local popular music scene started to develop in the early 1970s. Guitar strumming folk singers wandered the mining settlements singing songs about sex and a new modern way of life. Over time the singers added electric instrument and drums and suddenly people were calling it Zam-rock.
|President Kenneth Kuanda|
President Kuanda, a man of many talents including ballroom dancing and playing the guitar, introduced a law in the late 70’s requiring 95% of music played on radio to be Zambian. Overnight, a rock and roll fever gripped the country. Everyone with any talent began putting groups together. Heaven knows, the radio was looking for something to fill the rumba vacuum. The more established musicians like Paul Ngozi (Musi-o-Tunya) took the rock-inspired electric guitar leads of Zam-rock and attached them to essential rumba beats. Instead of English, lyrics were now in local languages. Within a few years a whole new form of urban dance music had emerged, kalindula.
“Brasher than soukous, and funkier, kalindula was characterized by rumba style guitars and a solid, rapid-fire bass line. The drums set off at a frantic pace with the guitarists seemingly struggling to find the rhythm. Then, around 30 seconds into the song, a cooler groove emerges to provide dance floor satisfaction.” (Rough Guide to World Music)
Among the crop of groups that pioneered kalindula was the Oliya Band the subject of tonight’s post. “The Oliya Band started playing music in Luanshya, in Mikomfwa township at Kosapa Tavern in 1980. Their originality in playing manchancha (Kaonde traditional dance music) and kalindula explains their evergreen status in music circles. Oliya Band had a passion for the promotion of the Kaonde, the Lamba and the Bemba traditional norms and culture through music.
“They first burst onto the scene with the hit Clementina, followed by their debut album, Pantanda Pashupa (meaning, Things are very difficult on Earth). Chenda Mundeke is one hit that you cannot resist to dance to. The track Chikokoshi would definitely see you seriously going down, while Mwe Balume would be the keynote for women who want their husbands to play their role of providing for their families.
“Their second album [was] called Sodom and Gommora, and gave yet another taste of what Oliya Band was all about. While some may have considered them underdogs because of their ages compared to other bands, they more than ever proved their capability especially with hits like Banjoni Balabila, Mulenga and the title track itself, Sodom and Gommora.
“Members of the band were: Jackson Tiza Mwanza, Fred Chisenga, Davie Miselo Mbulo, Davies Mulenga Chisupa, Derick Malupande, Moses Lungu, Jack Mbewe and Gilbert Mali.” (Liner Notes)
For my money it is indeed Sodom and Gommora that really grooves. I only wish I understood what they were saying about those doomed cities! But every track here is fresh and interesting. This is definitely not soukous but you can hear those roots. The guitars are very prominent and played exceptionally well. The singing is light and melodic.
Amazing what can develop behind the “Keep Out” signs.
02 Chenda Mundeke
04 Mwe Balume
05 Sodom & Gommorah
06 Pantanda Pashupa
07 Life Yamana
10 Ba Njoni Balabila