Monday, February 27, 2012

Smokin' on the Zambezi: Edwin "Smokey" Haangala

Tonight’s featured artist achieved greatness as a musician in Zambia in the 1970s and 1980s. But you could also mount the argument that with a name like Smokey, he was born to greatness. Born Edwin Haakulipa Haangala, in 1950 in what appears to be a fairly well off family, he did the right thing by his parents. He completed high school and did well enough to enter university where he studied for a career in Public Administration and English. During these years he kept his love of the electric guitar and music under control.  But things got worse as the years passed by. That damned guitar just wouldn’t stop tempting him. 

"If anything my greatest blow was when I could not sit for my final examinations at the university and knowing fully well that I had no one to blame, let alone myself. I was unreasonable to think that I could be a musician and full-time student and still be successful both ways," he half heartedly lamented in the mid 1970s when he was enjoying some considerable success in Zambia for his sweet vocals and accordion infused kalindula music. And even though people danced to his records and he got radio airplay he had to make a living which he did by working for a while in the Civil Service and as a journalist.  

His songs, sung in local Zambian languages like Tonga, spoke out against social evils like witchcraft and promoted family and other positive values.  Though he died at the age of 38 in 1988 his niece, Lulu Haangala and brother, Swithin, continue to keep the family name alive in the public arena. Swithin is the owner of Zambezi FM radio station and Lulu something of a local celebrity.

This collection of songs comes from the fantastic Zambia National Broadcasting Company (ZNBC) Zambian Legends Series.  Smokey’s voice is mellifluous  and his guitar picking (both electric and acoustic) energetic but not flashy.  What I particularly appreciate is the wonderful blending in of the accordion and electric organ and even what sounds like a harmonium in some cuts.  And let us not overlook his whistling too! Another excellent slice of Zambia which deserves a much wider audience.

            Track Listing
            01 Mandalena Mazabuka
02 Daina Mongu
03 Kuza Mwanaka
04 Ma Kwacha
05 Bana Bangu
06 Ku Maala
07 Petulo
08 Mandalena Kasama
09 Saaguna Ulyoolole
10 Bbalangombe
11 Ba Kuluna
12 Ndausa
13 Bo Lisabeti
14 Chifutefute
Listen  here.


Apurva Bahadur said...

Excellent music Sir, many thanks for sharing. Apurva from Pune, India.

Lulu Haangala said...

Hi there! Thanks for the mention. Uncle Smoky was truly talented God bless

ajnabi said...

Hi Lulu,
Thanks for writing! He really is! Do you know if there are other cds or tapes available of your uncle's work? If so where could I get them?

And good luck with your career too.

simwinji said...

Hello, you have a seriously good blog going there ajnabi. just stumbled on it when i idly wanted to check if there was anything on smokey haangala on the net. as an impressionable young man in the early eighties i was on the road with Smokey playing bass guitar with him in 1980 and '81 while playing guitar in another fledgling group that alternated sets with him during long shows that went on into the early hours....up to 6am in some cases!! the music has jogged some memories of Smokey. My name is simwinji zeko and keep up your posts. they are on the one!

ajnabi said...

Hi simwinji, Wow, what a background! Would love to have been able to hear your late night music sessions! Were any recorded? ARe you still playing?

Anonymous said...

Simwinji! Hi, just saw this article. Nice to know you are still able to remember the long gigs we had! Lets keep in touch. Email Swithin