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source: deviantART.com

#HumpdayHymnal: Spotlight on Zambia

We are loving Zambian music right now.  For today’s #HumpdayHymnal we put the spotlight on the resurgence of the Zambian music industry, which went from being a powerful national force in the 70s to seeing a tragic decline in the 1990s.

source: deviantART.com
Grunge Flag of Zambia by pnkrckr (c)

Way before colonial rule, what is now known as the country of Zambia boasted many self-governing kingdoms with each king having his own esteemed royal musicians and each kingdom its own music.

From the 1920s onwards, the exploitation of ore in the Zambian Copperbelt brought people from all corners of the land together to work in the mines. The resulting melting pot gave rise to a rich confluence of musical styles and instruments. As time went on, traditional music joined folk as the most popular sounds of the northern mining towns. After colonialism loosened its grip in the 1960s, the Zambia Broadcasting Service (ZBS) made a concerted effort to collect and preserve ceremonial, festival, and work songs from across the country.

Throughout the late 60s and early 70s, rebellion started to brew and “Zamrock,” Zambia’s contribution to rock ‘n’ roll, served as the soundtrack for protests over a variety of topics. The music was extremely popular – in fact a Zamrock group called Musi-o-tunya released Zambia’s first commercial LP. Still, it wasn’t until later in that decade that Zambia really began to produce what some consider uniquely Zambian music.

In the 1970s, Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, a musician himself, decreed that no less than 95 percent of music on the radio had to be of Zambian origin. His intention was to create a solely Zambian musical presence, but things didn’t work out exactly the way he wanted. Zambian teenagers scrambled to become pop stars and tried to become copies of the music of other African countries.

However one musician, Paul Ngozi – a former member of the Musi-o-tunya Zamrock group, is credited with creating kalindula, a new urban style of music, which featured a lead guitar and a rock/rumba beat. Ngozi infused the music with lyrics in local languages. Extremely danceable, kalindula (named after a traditional bass instrument) became the generic Zambian style of music in the 1980s.

In 1991, Kaunda was voted out of office and Frederick Chiluba became president. Facing a major economic slump, the new government now had other priorities. Meanwhile new radio stations, TV, and video – unfettered by rules promoting Zambian music – flooded the country with outside musical influences such as reggae, ragga, R&B, hip-hop, and gospel. And piracy hit Zambia hard!

But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Possibly out of necessity, Zambian popular music underwent a revival in the late 1990s – heavily influenced by the indigenous kalindula music and the imported reggae and ragga rhythms, and in the earlier 2000’s a unique genre called ‘Zamragga’ arose. During these exciting times, a new cohort of musicians came to the fore and pioneered a path to international recognition and world class standards for Zambian music.

Personally, I’ve been really digging Zamragga since discovering it about a month ago. It’s a pick-me-up like no other! I’ve got artists like T-Boy and T-Sean on heavy rotation. I’ll probably be posting a lot more of that in future – but for today, I’d just like to put you on to this soulful song by Nasty D – a well-known artist famous for popularising his music style called Zambezi, a combination of kalindula and afro-rhythms.

The song, called Shana, is a song of praise and a celebration of faith. Listen to the audio on our SoundCloud profile here.

[Edit] Or you can listen right here:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/22741546″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=9d0704″ width=”100%” height=”81″ ]

And if you’re really interested, do yourself a favour and check out www.zamtunes.com for even more fresh Zambian tunes (and plenty free downloads for your humpday playlist).

Image: pnkrckr (c)

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