By Potipher Tembo and John Sakala – Times of Zambia
ONE of Zambia’s best musicians in recent times, Jonathan Chibesa, who died in Chingola last Thursday, has left a vacuum which will be difficult to fill in as far as appreciable Zambian music is concerned.
Chibesa, who came into the limelight with his Glorious Band outfit way back in 2002, was born in 1976 in Chingola where he went to school at Twateka basic school up to grade nine.
At a time Zambian music seems to be dwindling with musicians engaging the same type of music, same tunes, same messages and dance, the Glorious Band, headed by Chibesa, broke the ice to add value to the seemingly dying Zambian music.
Chibesa came from a very humble background.
In the music world, he started as a church choir singer at St David Church in Chingola, together with his bandsmen. Finding it difficult to eke out a living, Chibesa and his choir members most of the time found themselves at funeral houses where they sung away the nights.
According to Christian Kenda, who was one of Chibesa’s closest friends and bassist for the Glorious Band, Chibesa came into fame from the church choir and was also inspired by the late PK Chishala.
“Chibesa started singing when he was very young in Kapisha compound. We were choir members at St David. Apart from being a church choir singer.
Chibesa liked music by PK Chishala who inspired him so much. It is a big loss for our band to lose such a talented musician. But since Glorious Band is a big company, we will go ahead with our music,” said Kenda.
Father Miha, the man who helped the Glorious Band rise to fame by supporting it through producing its first album, Isambwe Lyamfwa at Mission Press in Ndola, said Chibesa was a very talented young man who broke through the shell of Zambian music and showed a totally different direction.
He said Chibesa combined the traditional Luapula music and presented it in a modern way.
“The Glorious Band, through Chibesa, brought a major achievement in Zambian music. He was a great artiste and a good man. We are going to honour him posthumously at the Mukuba Awards which will be held at the swimming pool in September. We honoured the Glorious Band last year as the band of achievement,” said Fr Miha.
Before coming into fame, Chibesa was just a small time musician who had no inkling that he would one day make it into a big time musician.
Not able to afford a guitar, he started playing music using a home made banjo. But what was amazing about him was that he could play a banjo and sing without much ado, – a rare combination for most musicians.
He usually liked climbing trees where he would play his home-made instrument and sing, drawing the attention of his neighbours.
As a child, he went through a lot of problems and learnt quite a lot from the problems so that a number of his compositions were based on the experiences he underwent.
Thus, the Glorious Band’s Kula Umone album was deliberately composed true to Chibesa’s experiences.
Chibesa’s talent was discovered at one of the funeral houses in Chingola, where one man was touched by his singing and organised a big time band and later composed songs which included Isambwe lyamfwa which, when produced and released, sold like hot cake.
The album dominated ratings on the Top 10 Sounds Investments chart.
It was later to take Chibesa to State House, Congo DR and all parts of the country, which tours earned him more fame as one of the refined singers on the scene.
Before his death, Chibesa invited a journalist to Chililabombwe where he was recording a gospel album backing Chingola’s Chiwempala Holy Saviour’s main choir.
“God has done so many good things for me and I don’t know how to thank him. I felt the only way I could do so was by helping a choir record the album. I will use my equipment to add value to the touch of gospel music.” he had said.
Choir director, Bernard Chongo, said the death of Chibesa was a blow to the choir and the church.
Chongo said the last time he worked with Chibesa was in Chililabombwe when they were recording a 10-track Mukachimona bakachema album which focuses on the conduct of pastors. This was his last project.
Chibesa’s last live performance was at Chingola’s Bowling Club organised by Chingola School teachers on the eve of the fateful night when 12 soccer fans died in a stampede in Chililabombwe.
The concert was backed by Ever Green Eagles Band and was aimed at capturing the soccer fans from Chililabombwe.
Chibesa’s promoter, Joseph Mpepa, said the late musician was a great artiste who would be greatly missed by the family, friends and fans.
“His music was always meant to touch the souls of the audience he entertained. He was the vocalist, guitarist, music composer and a good band leader all rolled into one.” said Mpepa.
During his time as band leader, the Glorious Band released four albums including Isambwe lyamfwa, Ilyashi likaya,Kula umone and Tata mpeniko mano.
The message of the Glorious Band knew no age and no sex. It meant to educate both the young and the old and one can only hope that the band will continue to churn out their educative music which knew no boundaries.
Survived by wife Beauty and daughter Maggy, Chibesa was buried in Chingola last Saturday.