Folk music has played a special role in most cultures across the African continent. It has been used for generations as a part of oral traditions to pass down wisdom, preserve our history and to entertain.
In Zambia, folk music formed the basis of kalindula music, with the use of both traditional and new instruments to create a new and distinct African sound. Many elements of Zambian music are inspired by folk music. One artist that has ensured that folk remains alive even in 2019 is Mumba Yachi.
Dubbed the ‘folk music genius,’ Mumba Yachi made waves when he introduced crowds to his unique Afro-folk sound with hit songs like ‘You Are My Love’and ‘What Have You To Done Me’ which were part of his first album released in 2009 dubbed Inspire Me.
While he describes 2008, the year he moved to Lusaka to pursue music, as the hardest year of his life, Mumba sees his folk-fusion style of music as something that is comforting and keeps him grounded.
“It’s imperative to preserve your culture in your music, that’s what will set you apart especially if you want to stand on the international map. Africa is the mother of mankind so people of the world must look up to her more often. The music is taking over,” he tells me.
Without a doubt, African culture is spreading and rapidly gaining recognition around the world. Mumba argues that Africans must benefits as their culture spreads. He goes on to add: “This is just the beginning because we have so many rhythms that the Western world hasn’t discovered yet. Like kalindula for example. African musicians must just speak the truth in their music. They must enlighten the people. They must tell the story of the continent in all forms.”
Mumba loves incorporating indigenous African instruments to his work. He plays the kalimba (thumb piano) and his favourite instrument is the kora, a string instrument from West Africa.
Mumba tells me he wishes that people would understand that he is a serious artist. He bemoans the fact that false and negative stereotypes about musicians abound, in Zambia and across the rest of the African continent. “A lot of people think music is a hobby. Guys with dreadlocks are still regarded as ganja smokers and that female musicians are stereotyped as being promiscuous. I have had to overcome everything within myself in order to keep making music. I have no backup plan apart from making music. To become an entrepreneur is to be able to create something and own it.”
In 2010 Mumba was nominated for a Born and Bred Music award in the Best Foreign Rhythm and performed at the Ngoma Awards. His second album, Mongu Rice, is the result of a record deal with Vatice Mushauko (CEO of production multi-media company Inzy) and drew inspiration from multiple sources. Mumba’s third album, The Great Work, released in 2017 pushed his creative limits even further and won him much acclaim.
Mumba is known not only for music but also his look and style. Returning from exile in December 2018, Mumba has a new penchant for floral suits and explains that they are an expression of his creative freedom. “One thing I know is that flowers bring so much joy the human soul. I put on those clothes just to bring happiness in this world. My fashion sense is inspired by freedom. I am free to put on whatever I like. I’m thinking of launching my clothing line very soon and my fragrance too. I love fashion very much.”
The artist premiered the video for his vibrant song ‘Squeeze My Lemon’ off the Great Works album earlier this year and explains that the song was a tribute.
“The expression ‘squeeze my lemon’ was a slogan which became popular during the hippie movement. But it was created in the 1930s by black American blues singer Robert Johnson. By doing that song I was paying tribute to all those musicians that started the movement, by adding the Bemba flavour to it. It’s one of the reasons that my forthcoming album is tackling the rock element.
“I am proud of myself. I am a very strong soul. What have survived might kill the weak,” he concludes.
Mumba Yachi is set to release a highly anticipated new album in November, titled The Great Work 2. He will infuse a “rock element” into his distinctive folk sound.