Old Grooves

The Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit is uncovered for the first time in many years
The Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit is uncovered for the first time in many years
The Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit is uncovered for the first time in many years

Orchestra pit given new lease of life

A fascinating piece of theatrical history was uncovered this week with the reopening of the Lusaka Playhouse orchestra pit for the first time in many years.

The nerve-centre of musical performances is believed to have been forgotten, hidden and gathering dust beneath the stage of the city’s theatrical home.

Now the OperaZ contemporary classical music group has given the orchestra pit a new lease of life, opening it up for performances once again with the world premiere of Damyna, Damyna being performed there from April 3-5.

An orchestra pit is the part of the theatre where an orchestra plays, between the front of the stage and the audience, and usually set at a lower level.

The OperaZ Orchestra of some 20 classically trained Zambian musicians playing violins, flutes, clarinet, trumpet, cello, horn, bassoon, trombone and piano, will bring the pit – and the stage – back to its former glory, conducted by Theo Bross, and  accompanying a further 20 members of the Kanon Choir, talented soloists and Team Jiva hip hop dancers.

The opera stars soloists are Lulu Imbula, Chrispin Lindunda, Paddy Mukando, Cathrin Mukupa, Stanley Musowe, Josephine Kachiza, Mate Mate and Portia Imbula.

Music direction is by Milupi Imbula; choreography by Michael Malambo; production design by Nadezda Chibanda; stage manager is Chris Mulambwa.

Sponsors include Manzi Valley, Proflight Zambia, ProCharter, Amatheon Agri, Ngoma Dolce Music Academy and Langmead & Baker.

Rehearsals are at an advanced stage for the collective’s first performance of the opera, which explores the conflicts between traditional rural life in Zambia and the attractions and challenges of modern urban living. Essentially a love story, the allegory also examines controversial issues surrounding orphans, donor influence, the gap between rich and poor and the everyday struggles of rural life.

The opera is composed and written by long-term Zambia resident Dr Peter Langmead, who has spent much of his working life travelling throughout Zambia for his work, drawing inspiration for the composition from his experiences and observation.

Damyna Damyna is about the realities of life familiar to many people, but the show also has magical touches and quite a few surprises.” said Dr Langmead. “It is also an opportunity for people to see the remarkable – and often hidden – talent that we have in Zambia.”

Dr Langmead’s vision is to restore opera’s reputation as an entertainment event for ordinary people, rather than an elitist art form. He aims to encourage and stage new compositions by new composers, and break the mould, rather than dwell on the traditional Western classical pieces.

Instead he hopes to impart his enthusiasm and passion for contemporary classical music to a new generation of young performers and artists who are keen to break down the barriers between old and new, traditional and modern, and classical and contemporary music.

The opera will be staged at the Lusaka Playhouse at 19hrs on Thursday, April 3, Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5. Tickets are K200 and can be reserved by calling 0976 750044 or emailing OperaZ@langmead.com

About OperaZ

OperaZ is a collective of talented classically trained Zambian singers and musicians, along with some of the country’s leading contemporary dancers.

The aim is to showcase new contemporary compositions through performances throughout Zambia and internationally.

The group also aims to nurture emerging classical music talent, inspire new musicians to reach their potential and provide a platform to bring work to a wider audience.

For more information visit www.operaz.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OperaZed

Twitter: @Opera4Z


Screen-Shot-2013-12-01-at-6.30.40-PMCongolese music giant Pascal Tabu Ley Rochereau has died in a Belgium hospital where he has been undergoing treatment for a stroke he suffered in 2008. His former band manager, Mr Mekansi Modero, who is now based in US said a close member of the musician’s family called him confirming the death.

Nyboma Mwandido, a fellow musician who lives in in Paris also confirmed the death of the veteran crooner, which occurred on Saturday at 8 am in Brussels, Belgium.

Tabu Ley has been critically ill in the Belgium hospital where he was undergoing treatment for a stroke he suffered in 2008. The stroke left him confined to a wheelchair.

The performer, whose popular hits like Muzina, Maze and Sorozo rocked millions of fans in Africa, is a celebrated musician, whose songs continue to enjoy airplay years after they were released.

In the past, Tabu Ley unsuccessfully tried his hand in politics, after he was appointed a Cabinet minister by President Laurent Kabila in 1997 and a later nominated to parliament.

Earlier, the Rhumba artiste, who refused to be President Mobutu Sese Seko’s court poet, was forced into exile.

In the last couple of years, he has been living in Paris, France receiving medical care.

Tabu Ley is is one of the few of his generation of musicians, who included Joseph Kabasele, alias Grand Kallé or Nicolas Kasanda, alias Nico.

He launched his career in Kinshasa in 1959 both as a composer, signer and dancer, in Joseph Kabasele’s African Jazz Band and officially ended it in 2009.

In an earlier interview in Paris with a DR Congo newspaper Le Potentiel, the musician said he was in good health.

“I feel very well as you can notice. As per my doctors, my health conditions are improving every day. The thing is that I have to accept my current condition with good-naturedness. I am 72 years old and find it normal to face some physical weaknesses. I am a Christian and trust in God,” he declared.

Tabu Ley composed around 2,000 songs and produced 250 albums.

By Austin Kaluba

Austin Kaluba
Austin Kaluba
Considering that ZAMROCK has been discovered internationally, lets enjoy one ZAMROCK classic Mboto from Mukusi.

Named after a hard wood found in Western province, Mukusi proved to be a force to reckon with when ZAMROCK was the in-thing in Zambia.

Since its formation the band played its brand of Afro-rock at the Barn Motel owned by Arthur Wina who was finance minister in Kaunda’s government. From there, Mukusi moved to Lotus Inn but travelled around the country playing gigs.

Since the great ZAMROCK band never recorded anything, ZAMROCK lovers will be treated to a few Mukusi classics like Mboto ( added here), Katyetye and Elina reproduced by one of the band’s front man Stanford Tembo.

zamrock rehearsals
zamrock rehearsals

Mukusi was birthed by the England-based Ghanaian band Osibisa that visited Zambia in the early 70’s influencing local bands to blend foreign sounds with native ones coming up with what was called ZAMROCK by Dr Manasseh Phiri.

When Mukusi broke up Stanford joined The Witch as lead singer, replacing Jaggari Chanda who left the band to go study Music at Evelyn Hone.
The Witch toured Zimbabwe in the 1980 just when the country was gaining its independence. Among the songs it performed was Freedom Fighter which Stanford wrote—one which went down well in a country that had endured years of a bitter liberation struggle.

A Kabwe teenager has filed for divorce against her 21-year-old husband who happens to be a polygamist on grounds that he was in the habit of making both her and his other wife sleep in the same bed and then make love to them one after the other.

Maureen Jere,19 complained before Senior Court Magistrate (SCM) Marble Mwaba at Lusaka Boma Local Court that her husband Edward Jere with whom she has a child had been engaging in strange sexual behaviour since he took in his second wife several months ago.
Maureen whose matrimonial home with Jere is in Lusaka’s Makeni Villa told the court that she had no option but to return to her parents in Kabwe following her husband’s strange behaviour in bed.
“There was one time when I left home to visit family members outside Lusaka. When I returned within a few days, I found that my husband had brought in a new woman….
“When it was time to go to bed, on that day, I spend the night on the sitting room while he lay in our matrimonial bed with his new wife.
“A few days later, he forced me to join them in bed. He would then have sex with his second wife and then with me…. This went on for months,” narrated Maureen as she struggled to hold back her tears.
She went on to narrate that it was also a norm for Jere to gang up with his new wife and beat her up severely for no apparent reason. She complained that she had undergone a lot of mental, physical and psychological punishment thanks to Jere, his second wife as well as some of Jere’s relatives whom she accused of having a ‘passionate hatred’ for her.
According to the court papers the two got married two years ago when Maureen was just a Grade 9 pupil at one of the Basic schools in Kabwe.
But Jere, a truck driver by occupation, objected to the divorce. He begged the court not to dissolve the marriage because at 21, he was “too young to be a divorcee” although he never appeared to realise that he was equally too young to marry let alone to be a polygamist.
Jere, whose chin is just as neat as that of baby as he doesn’t have any trace of a beard said he loved Maureen adding that the only reason he impregnated and married a second wife was for purposes of “finding out if I am really fertile.” He said this was because Maureen had been insinuating that he was not a ‘real man’ especially in bed.
Said Jere:“Whenever we quarreled, my wife would tell me that I was just good at talking but when it came to issues of sex, I was pathetic.
“She also said I was infertile and that I wasn’t the real father of our child although he resembles me.
“For this reason, I picked a girl of her age group and got her pregnant. This was just for finding out if I was really fertile and thank God I proved it. She now has a baby boy!”
But the 21-year-old polygamist told the court that although he wanted Maureen back, he wasn’t willing to get rid of the second wife because he wanted both of them to himself.
Jere also refuted claims that he laid both Maureen and his other wife in the same bed one after the other. He said although both Maureen and the second wife lived under the same roof, they each had their own bedrooms, which he ‘visited’ as per schedule.
And in the passing ruling on the matter, SCM Mwaba declined either to grant or deny the couple divorce. Mwaba said she would not pass ruling on the matter until she sees the “irresponsible and foolish parents of these two children.”
“ We are not going to tolerate this kind of madness to go on in our country!” she said, “Let’s first have the irresponsible and foolish parents of these two children before we can be able to do anything else. I want to know what they were thinking when they married off these two.”

The Five Revolutions was a popularly known Zambian Ndola-based band comprising of Chris Mbewe (guitar, vocals), Zion Lofwa (bass), Abel Mukubwe (drums), Hank Mukumbo (guitar), John Mwansa (vocals).

They released several hits in the mini music renaissance of the 70’s.

The Five Revolutions Band sang on the dangers of Kachasu consumption, the illicit beer that is brewed in Zambia./

By Austin Kaluba

Amanaz was a Zambian rock band in the 1970s comprising among others the guitar wizard Isaac Mpofu and another surviving member vocalist Keith Kabwe.This CD on which this song appears has been reissued by Egon, a collector who is repackaging Zambian music of yesteryears.

In anticipation of this reissue, we’re giving you a taste now: the band’s beautiful ballad “Khala My Friend ” an advice on a wayward young man of the same name. The musician attempts to rhyme by paring words like Khala my friend/ the world has no end.

In the early ’70s Zambian way stylistically very much rooted in late ‘60s psych, with a few African moves thrown in here & there for flavor.

Amanaz , a five piece band (two guitars, bass, drums, vox) & all five members wrote & sang, so there is a fair amount of variety in the songs, though they are stylistically coherent, moving from a sort of semi-Africanized “Loaded” Velvets feel to something maybe along the lines of a stripped down Iron Butterfly, maybe even hinting at something like early Funkadelic, but always high level, plenty of fuzz, riffs, post Ginger Baker drumming, & with a ramshackle underground sound & feel – raw, organic, beautiful.

This feels like it was hand carved out of an old tree, rather than recorded in a studio. Mostly sung in English, with a couple of tunes in the Bemba language. A fairly close parallel would be the equally brilliant Chrissy Zebby Tembo album “My Ancestors,” also recorded in Zambia & released around the same time. Beautiful Sunday morning comedown feel. Sounds good immediately, but repeated listens reveals rare timeless magic.


By Austin Kaluba

Austin Kaluba

Janet , sang in ci-Nsenga –a popular tribe in eastern province of Zambia was a big hit. In the didactic song, an aging mother counsels her wayward daughter to change her immoral ways.

Janet is having an affair with Peter, a married man who drives a Mercedes benz has daughters who are Janet’s age mates. The band’s frontman Emmanuel ‘Jagari’ Chanda sang the song probably penned by Chris Mbewe in ci-Nsenga though there is a trace of ci-Bemba in his accent. Janet was among Zamrock classics that the Witch popularised.

A Mercedes Benz was a car of status associated with the Apamwamba’s-upperclass in Zambia.

A driver would kerb crawl and a woman would usually walk to the car for a ‘lift’ that would lead to other activities.

First Republican president Kenneth Kaunda with whom he recorded an anti-HIV/AIDS album “We Shall Fight

By Austin Kaluba

Austin Kaluba

Probably the best Zambian musician, Likezo Makuyu Ililonga who sings under his stage name Rikki Ililonga is a musician who has come a long way from the 1970s when he released his debut song Ulemuand followed it up with several albums among them Zambia, Soweto, Sunshine Love, Shantytown Boy and Frank Talk.

Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba
Austin Kaluba

Having concluded my column Down Memory Lane, I have decided to start another music column entitled Old Grooves were I will download music that will take you to the old good days that shaped our growing up in Zambia.

I will start with Spokes Mashiyane dueting with Miriam Makeba with backing from the Skylarks giving us a beautiful Kwela piece Ndidliwe Zintaba.

Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba

I love Spokes Mashiyane’s meandering penny whistle and Miriam Makeba’s crystal voice soaring above the bass and other instruments.

Relax and enyoy……