World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Music of Zambia

Article Id: WHEBN0000930923
Reproduction Date:

Title: Music of Zambia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Music of Africa, Outline of music, Zambia, LGBT history in Zambia, Zoblazo
Collection: Zambian Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Music of Zambia

A musician performs in Zambia.

The music of Zambia has a rich heritage which falls roughly into three categories: traditional, popular and Christian.


  • Traditional music 1
    • Instruments 1.1
  • Popular music 2
    • Christian music 2.1
  • References 3
  • Recordings 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6

Traditional music

Traditional Zambian music is rooted in the beliefs and practices of Zambia's various ethnic groups and has suffered some decline in the last three decades. Traditional Zambian music once had clear ritual purposes or was an expression of the social fabric of the culture. Songs were used to teach, to heal, to appeal to spirits, and for mere enjoyment. Despite the decline of traditional music, its influences can still be heard in many of today's Zambian musical forms. The ubiquitous African "call-and-response" can be heard in almost every Zambian song no matter what the style. Traditional drum rhythms and polymeters are evident in many different kinds of Zambian music. Contemporary popular forms such as Zambian Kalindula also exhibit traces of traditional music in the finger-picking style used by guitarists.


Traditional Zambian instruments include a variety of membranophones, both stick-struck and hand-struck. Drums are essential for most traditional dances. Ngoma is the generic central African term for drum but Zambian drums come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and purposes and have specific names depending on their tribal origins and functional roles. The budima drums of the Valley Tonga, for example, are used specifically for funeral ceremonies. Budima drums have a goblet shape and come in sizes ranging from large to small. One of the most interesting of drums is the so-called "lion drum" (Namalwa in Tonga) used at traditional funerals. This is a friction drum which is not struck at all but which has a stick inserted through the drum head that is rubbed. The silimba is a large 17-note xylophone from Western Province.

Chordophones and aerophones are less common in traditional Zambian music but exist nonetheless. The Valley Tonga play instruments made from animal horns called nyeele. Nyeele are played using an interlocking technique with individual musicians each playing a single horn and interlocking with other musicians who have nyeele of different pitches. A chordophone called a kalumbu was traditionally played by young men to signal their desire to marry. Called a 'musical bow' by ethnomusicologisits because of its bow shape, the kalumbu is struck by a stick. Like many other central African countries, Zambia once had a vibrant tradition of so-called "thumb pianos," each with a different name depending on tribal origins: the Tonga kankobela is one such thumb piano, the Mbunda "kathandi", the Lozi "kangombio", the Lunda "chisanzhi", the Nsenga "kalimba", etc. Although the use of traditional instruments has declined in recent years, they can still be heard in rural areas of Zambia.

Recordings of traditional Zambian music were made in the mid-twentieth century by Mwesa Isaiah Mapoma, Joseph Ng'andu, John Anderson Mwesa and others. Recent field recordings made by native Zambian Michael Baird in Southern Province have been released on his SWP label.

Popular music

After independence in 1964, the most important source of popular music was the Zambia Broadcasting Service and affiliated bands like Lusaka Radio Band who soon changed their name to The Big Gold Six. Record companies soon formed, with most recordings made at Peter Msungilo's DB Studios in Lusaka, and records pressed in Ndola by the Teal Record Company.

The northern, copper-producing area of Zambia was known for singers like John Lushi, William Mapulanga and Stephen Tsotsi Kasumali. Their guitar-based music grew gradually into Zamrock, which used mostly English lyrics in rock songs. Bands included the Machine-Gunners and Musi-o-tunya. The most popular band in Zambian history soon emerged, Jaggari Chanda's Witch.

In the late 1970s, President Kenneth Kaunda ordered that 95% of the music on the radio had to be Zambian. He hoped to encourage the formation of a Zambian national identity. Rather than using their folk roots, however, Zambians attempted to become pop stars. By the mid-1980s, the result was kalindula music. Bands included the Masasu Band, Serenje Kalindula and Junior Mulemena Boys. Amayenge is considered one of the best kalindula bands of the past twenty years. An annual concert of traditional bands (not just kalindula) was recently begun by the Chikuni Radio station in Chikuni in the Southern Province. Two of the most popular bands from that festival are Green Mamba and Mashombe Blue Jeans. In addition, artists such as Alfred Chisala Kalusha Jr. based their compositions on "Imfukutu" - Bemba folk music.

In the 1990s, economic problems caused the collapse of the Zambian music industry. Unfettered by rules promoting Zambian music, the airwaves were covered with imported ragga and reggae from Jamaica and hip hop and R&B from the United States.

The most successful record label currently operating in Zambia is Mondo Music Corporation in Lusaka. Their stable of artists includes J.K., Danny, Shatel, and Black Muntu. Sound clips of each of these groups can be heard at their website (see below). The Zambian entertainment industry recognizes popular musicians such as these at its annual Ngoma Awards. The Ngoma Awards amount to a Zambian version of the all-Africa Kora Awards. At the moment K'Millian is a very popular artist.

A unique hybrid form of Zambian music is found in the so-called "banjo" tradition. The Zambian "banjo" (pronounced 'bahn-jo') is essentially a homemade guitar. A wide variety of such instruments can be found in different sizes and with varying numbers of strings. Most are played using a two or three finger picking style and the tuning of each instrument is unique to that instrument. The body is made in various shapes from wood or sometimes tin cans, and the strings or 'wires' often come from discarded radial tires. Zambian banjos are used in kalindula bands throughout Zambia.

Christian music

Popular influences can also be heard in the newer repertory, some of which is borrowed from urban contemporary gospel, some from so-called "contemporary Christian music" from the United States, and some from Zambian popular idioms. The use of electronic synthesizers and guitars has also made its way into the church. The flow of influence between church music and the popular realm can also be heard in recordings by groups such as Lumbani Madoda, Zambian Acapella, and Hosanna Band which has been disbanded.

The influence of Euro-American hymnody is also evident in the music of many Zambian congregations. Hymns from British and American hymnals continue to be part of the musical fabric of many churches, and many harmonic practices are derived from Western hymn influences. Among the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a unique system of notation called Tonic Sol-fa is used to transmit hymns. Invented by John Curwen, the system was imported into Africa by the British in the nineteenth century. The Heritage Singers Choir and Heritage Brothers of the SDA church helped popularise this form of harmonious music.


  • Brown, Ernest Douglas. "Drums of Life: Royal Music and Social Life in Western Zambia." PhD diss. U. of Washington, 1984.
  • Graham, Ronnie and Simon Kandela Tunkanya. "Evolution and Expression". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp. 702-705. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books.
  • Jones, Arthur Morris. "African Music in Northern Rhodesia and Some Other Places." The Occasional Papers of the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum; New Ser., No. 4; Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia: Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 1958.
  • Kubik, Gerhard. African Guitar: Solo Fingerstyle Guitar Music, Composers and Performers of Congo/Zaire, Uganda, Central African Republic, Malawi, Namibia, and Zambia: Audio-Visual Field Recordings, 1966-1993, by Gerhard Kubik. videorecording. Vestapol Productions; Distributed by Rounder Records, Cambridge, Mass., 1995.
  • Longwe, Sara H., et al. Woman Know Your Place: The Patriarchal Message in Zambian Popular Song: A Research Report from the Women in Music Project. Lusaka, Zambia: Zambia Association for Research and Development, 1990.
  • Mapoma, Mwesa Isaiah. "The Effects of Non-Musical Factors on the Performance of Some Vocal Music of the Bemba of Zambia." Kassel. Bärenreiter, 1981.
  • -----. "A Glimpse at the Use of Music in Traditional Medicine among the Bantu: A Case of Healing among the Bemba Speaking People of Zambia." Muntu: Revue scientifique et culturelle de CICIBA.8 (1988): 117-23.
  • Ng'andu, Joseph, and Anri Herbst. "Lukwesa Ne Ciwa - the Story of Lukwesa and Iciwa: Musical Storytelling of the Bemba of Zambia." British Journal of Music Education 21.1 (2004): 41.
  • Thomas, Dwight W. "Inyimbo Zyabakristo: The Chitonga Hymnal of the Zambian Brethren in Christ Church." Brethren in Christ History and Life 28.3 (2005): 502-66.
  • Tracey, Hugh. Ngoma: An Introduction to Music for Southern Africans. London: Longmans, 1948.
  • Tsukada, Kenichi. "Kalindula in Mukanda: The Incorporation of Westernized Music into the Boys' Initiation Rites of the Luvale of Zambia." In: Tradition and Its Future in Music Osaka, Japan: Mita 1991. 547-51.
  • Van Dijk, Marcel. "The correlation between instrument and style." Journal of the International Library of African Music (vol. 8, nr. 4), 2010.


  • Brown, Ernest. Songs of the Spirits: The Royal Music of the Nkoya of Zambia. Lusaka, Zambia: University of Zambia Institute for African Studies, 1976.
  • Baird, Michael. Batonga across the Waters. Utrecht, The Netherlands: SWP Records, 1997.
  • ---. Zambia Roadside Music from Southern Province. Utrecht, The Netherlands: SWP Records, 2003.
  • Daddy, Zemus. Chibaba. Lusaka, Zambia: Mondo Music Corp., 1999.
  • Guitar Songs from Tanzania, Zambia & Zaire. Tivloi, N.Y.: Original Music, 1982.
  • Hosanna Gospel Band. Lesa Tupepa. Lusaka, Zambia: Mondo Music Corp., 2004.
  • J, K. JK. Lusaka, Zambia: Mondo Music Corp., 2001.
  • Shoprite Zambia Hit Parade. Lusaka, Zambia: Mondo Music Corp., 2001.
  • Tracey, Hugh. "Kalimba & Kalumbu Songs, Northern Rhodesia Zambia, 1952 & 1957: Lala, Tonga, Lozi, Mbunda, Bemba, Lunda." Historical recordings / by Hugh Tracey. Utrecht, The Netherlands: SWP Records, 1998. Produced and remastered by Michael Baird.
  • Zambian Acapella. Zambian Acapella. Corsicana, Tex.: Paradox Music, 1993.
  • Baird, Michael. "The Kankobela of the Batonga Vol. 1." Utrecht, The Netherlands: SWP Records 2008.

See also

External links

  • International Library of African Music
  • Music Zambia
  • UKZAMBIANS - Zambian Music profiles and videos
  • SWP Records
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.