A walk on ‘Joe Chibangu Road’

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 09:47:48 +0000


By Terence Miselo

It is exactly one week since the nation bade farewell to the music ‘Ambassador’ Joe Mulenga Chibangu.

His death sparked a lot of memories of how he worked very hard to pioneer the current wave of music. The special send off and celebration of his life on Earth on Tuesday was clear testimony he was a man whose works touched many including that of Patriotic Front Kabwata Member of Parliament Given Lubinda who is also Justice Minister, as well as his counterpart Vincent Mwale, the local government minister.

Hon. Lubinda, who on Tuesday at the Cathedral of The Holly Cross mourned Chibangu as a friend, and fellow artiste, did not hesitate to respond to Zambia Association of Musicians president Njoya Tambo’s emphatic call to the government to honour extraordinary musicians and artistes in general. Njoya’s appeal came as a result of continuous calls from the general public and particularly from the entertainment sector, for authorities to recognize artistes in the same way they honor politicians. For instance, musician Petersen in reaction to Joe’s death authored an open letter to the Republican President on his face book page calling on him to declare a day of national mourning to honor and respect Chibangu’s contribution to the music industry.

Although Joe was not accorded a day of national mourning, Hon. Lubinda’s passionate promise of honoring the late singer by naming one of the selected roads in  Kabwata Constituency after him is a huge gain to the entertainment sector.  Expected to be actualized next month through a special ceremony, many have described this as a befitting honor to the singer, music producer and songwriter.

But what does a ‘Joe Chibangu Road’ mean to all of us who will be walking or riding on it? What does it bring to the entertainment industry, specifically to musicians?

Firstly, we need to understand that recognition and honour comes with a blend of hard work, humility and selfless service. This is what Joe brought to the music sector therefore this gesture by Hon. Lubinda is highly commendable. Chibangu’s music journey first as a member of the 90s clique, Rap Prophets of Desh, Saili and himself, identified him as a team player. This meant he embraced others before self, despite the many gifts he had as a musician. Many artistes and fans that spoke to his honor shared this common attribute about the ‘Ambassador’.  Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC)’s Innocent Kalaluka, who anchored the sendoff ceremony at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, shared a moment when Joe told him he turned down an offer to go for greener pastures in South Africa for the sake of developing an emerging Zambian music industry. With that attitude, Joe managed to work with every talent available and different to bring harmony to music. It was Joe who insisted on the use of live instruments and great instrumentalists like Uncle Rex Mukubonda and Sir Jones Kabanga during his time at Mondo Music where he discovered and developed many other people’s careers.

“Joe made us,” said Saboi Imboela of the former duo Shatel that enjoyed a great deal of his musical skills. He produced and wrote most of Shatel’s music at the peak of Mondo Music.

“There was no producer that ever understood us. Joe knew how to blend us as Shatel and that is the more reason we made it big,” adds Saboi.

Apart from Shatel, Joe built careers of Black Muntu, Tribal Cousins, Bob Mabege, Tasila and of course sensational JK among others. With Joe came Daddy Zemus, Yesu Culture and Mainza Chipenzi. Mainza, with the help of Runnel on the tribute performance of ‘Na Bwalya,’ a song Joe and him did as Melt Down then, could not hide his emotions and deep grief.

“That performance brought a lot of memories,” Mainza remarked at Mulungushi. In short, every artiste from what is termed at as ‘Old School’ and was present at the sendoff remembers Joe as a person who laid a firm foundation of what was to be and what would remain to be Zambian music.

“He can be considered as the bridge between the old and the new crop of musicians,” submitted Levy Sakala of the once-famous duo Sakala Brothers. And evidently so, Joe’s name remained tagged on most productions between 1995 to mid-2000s. His peers, Danny, TK, Danny Peddle, Leo and Mwembe plus more were all not short of praise of his influence on their careers. Radio DJs as well as TV presenters also had something to say about this great talent.

Chilu Lemba, now based in South Africa, worked with Chibangu on various projects including the Rhythm Nation Project. He writes:

“Joe was an incredibly gifted guy; a singer, producer, songwriter and stage performer. He had a great sense of humor too. I sat on both sides of the fence when it came to Joe; I was a friend and a fan. This guy is a great loss not only to the music industry but to humanity.”

It is such sentiments noticed or unnoticed that make Joe Chibangu matter and eventually make the suggestion of having a street to his name meaningful. So what will the walk or ride on Joe Chibangu Road mean to the industry?

Musicians and entertainers in general must live to achieve what the Ambassador meant to achieve. In one of my many interviews with him, Chibangu dreamt of bringing back the music glory days of Mondo.

“I know there are a lot of artistes who are making a name out there but what they are getting in return is not worth the name. I stayed quiet[away from active music] because I have been thinking  of how we can get back to the days where an artiste can be proud of works and not just make a name  then fail to sustain their lives,” Chibangu said in a 2010 interview to announce his comeback then.

“I actually miss the days of Mondo Music where an artiste could be respected and earn enough economically and for his image.”

Yes, we may not have Mondo Music today, but Chibangu’s passion was to see that we get back to good management and promotion of music. Artistes now have a bigger role to play in uplifting what Joe laid for them. There is need to strengthen ZAM and make it an avenue for improving music standards. Politicians will not be there all the time and artistes must learn to stand strong and united own their own.

For the rest of us, supporting local music financially and morally means supporting our very own artistes. As we walk or ride on ‘Joe Chibangu Road’ let us remember his sacrifices and wishes for Zambian music.

Go well Joe, Go well Ambassador!!



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