Chali Bravo wrote…

TRIBUTE to all the local music makers, past and present.


You see, most people look down on the artist on the come up. Society generally does not encourage pursuit of a career in the arts.

I know parents that have threatened to disown their child if they chose to be a musician. I know people that have run away from home simply to live out their passion. I know women or men that have sworn they couldn’t be in a relationship with a person in the arts. You would think artists were a race on its own, worthy of discrimination.

But art is also heavily polarised. You are spat on one day and worshipped the next day. It’s also possible that you are spat on again on the third day. It’s an all or nothing game. The stakes are very high.

Here in Zambia, music has never been given support by the government or any major institution. All the government has ever done is provide copyright law which in most times has not been executed. Some like me, from just pure passion and ambition, raised ourselves from our boot straps, unsupported, with little or no capital and knowledge, and we went out and successfully did industry in a completely tattered industry.

Then, more than now, it was a very brave thing to step into. People around us literally thought we had lost a marble or 2. Maybe even 3. Picture an adult sitting in a room trying to come up with a song that will take the whole country by storm while other adults went to work early in the morning, every day, and got their stable 8 to 5 income. It was and still is a sort of fool’s errand.

The majority actually did give up the dream to basic common sense and are now scattered in different fields in the main stream economy. Some even worked their way up to the top floor, and now gaze down at the city, relieved that they successfully manage to dodge the bullet of artistic poverty and social redicule. You will be surprised how many of my successful corporate friends tell me “You know I used to sing……”.

And great, because most of those who didn’t give up paid the full price of lost opportunity and time, wishing they had a chosen a different and more tollarant financial and social path. They have found themselves hitchhiking, and they watch the world drive past, over and over again, without even a simple wave. That’s

the price of this game.

Now let me tell you about the few that made it. Those that did brought unmeasurable joy and comfort to millions of people across the country. They provided the soundtrack to people’s lives and enriched the quality of their existence. A snippet of a good song triggers a clear memory of a time past, and a person remembers where they were and what it is they where doing. Most importantly, how they were feeling at that time. It’s not uncommon for me to be told indebth stories based on the songs we created. “I was in school when that song came out. I remember, I had just been dumped that day and …….”.

Apart from the spiritual experience that is music, a single successful artist triggers so much economic activity. From giving bands and managers jobs, to individuals and companies that promote, distribute and retail music. Pirate or not, how many people are feeding families from selling music? Music has fed many people.

Music provides content for radio and TV stations. Radio and TV stations advertise brands so companies can sell products. Products are sold for a profit, part of which pay workers in different fields who in turn feed families. Music does this.

Music provides content for bars, restaurants and events. These need employees to manage the gathering of people in mass, from gate keepers to waiters, kitchen staff and managers and so on. Where the music is good, more products are sold and more money is circulated in an economy. See where I am going? Music has and continues to put food on a lot of tables in this country.

When some artists fall off or even pass, their music continues to play a part in the economy for many many years to come, contributing to industry.

It’s a thankless job. It’s a cruel job. It can be demeaning. It takes a toll on people’s lives, both the successful and not so successful.

If I speak of Sling Beats alone, we put out well over 2 dozen acts on stage in a decade, and inspired 10s of thousands of artists, producers and promoters in one way or another over a period of almost 2 decades. We provided a huge part of the platform from which Zambian music now occupies. Together with other stables, big and small, past or present, how much industry do you think people in music have contributed to improving the quality of life in this country?

Good morning and enjoy the music.

You might also like More from author