11 August 2012

Zambia: Zam Rocker - Nicky Mwanza - Still Rolling On

VETERAN musician Nicky Mwanza is one character never to be over shadowed for having stirred up the dawn of some of the country's best Zamrock bands.

It could also be a misdemeanour to over look the fact that Nicky was the brain behind the formation of the Cross Bones in the 1970s, which later became the Amayenge Band.

This is the man who has witnessed the rise and fall of Zamrock and yet himself has survived this tough musical terrain which has seen scores fall on the sides.

He is a sojourner having mingled with almost all the musicians of yester-year and has performed with some of Zambia's best bands.

Nicky has also played in the Green Buffaloes Combo formed by He-She Mambo, The Impact Band which performed at the Cafe d' Afrique managed by the late Josephine Zulu.

He now thinks it could be a good idea to honour Zambian music legends who helped to shape up and lay the foundation for the development of Zamrock.

He said this is the type of music Zambia can only be identified with.

"Authorities should consider giving awards in honour of Zambian music legends because they did alot to lay the foundation," he said.

Talking to this soft spoken musician reveals alot about Zamrock music which should have benefitted the country greatly in terms of development and identity had it been sustained.

Born In Lusaka's Malova Township now known as Chibolya in 1943, Nicky started his music career in 1964 in welfare centres five years after returning from Bulawayo in the then Southern Rhodesia where he went to pursue his education in 1949.

He later formed a band called the Afro Dynamite with Alfrey Sinkala who was part of the birth of the Big Gold Six Band, on bass, Stanley Phiri (lead), George Mubanga (rhythm) and a guy only known as Davey was on drums.

After the group disbanded in 1972, Nicky moved on to form the Born Free Band which had Nicky on drums and vocals, Chris Mbewe (not the former Witch) on Bass, Garry Phiri (lead) and when Garry left, Mike Nyoni took over the lead guitar.

While Harold Kabangwe was on rhythm.

Later, Chris and Harold left the band and Zimbabwean born Peter Lungu who also played in the Great Witch came on the drums while Nicky went on rhythm.

However, more changes came In 1973 when Peter and Mike left to form the New Born Free Band.

The New Born Free recorded an album called Born Free which had songs like I don't know (How to Love a Girl), Mukazi Wa Chingoni and Namwali all of which were well received on the local market.

While that was happening, Nicky went on to engineer the formation of the Cross Town Traffic with George Mulauzi on Lead, George Tembo (bass), Hassan Hassan (drums) Nicky (vocals) and Harold on bass.

The same year, the band merged with some members of the Born Free to from the Cross Bones where Nicky performed with renowned songbird Violet Kafula and duetted in the famous hit single, Mwe Ba Lume Bandi on Zambezi label, which sold 14,000 copies in the first two weeks of its release.

The Cross Bones also released an album called Wise Man which had songs like Wise Man, Lizzie, Mwe Ba Lume Bandi and Real, among them.

In 1979, the Cross Bones after other members including Violet left, the band transformed to New Cross Bones with Chris Chali who was at the time hanging out with the Witch Band at the helm and Nicky was directing it.

Darious Mwelwa was on drums, an Army officer major Maison Maanga on bass and Nicky was instrumental in the coining of the band's name to the current Amayenge.

'It was in Choma in 1979 when we came up with the name Amayenge after the Cross Bones which I helped to form transformed," said Nicky in a recent interview in Lusaka.

Nicky while directing the Amayenge, performed in a band called the Directions which had George Mulauzi on lead guitar, Ian Nyirenda (bass), Chris Kombe (lead vocals), Nicky on drums, Febian Mukalula (keyboard) and George Lungu on bass.

While in the Directions, the band released a hit song called Mukazi Wanga (Chikwati Ni Mutima) which did well on the radio airwaves.

He later teamed up with Graig Miyanda of the Mitala Yayi fame, who also sang Bavarandi, Ndalila Bama among others to form the Two-Some Band which performed in all the country's major hotels.

But that too, did not last long and Nicky formed the Tokoza Band in 1980 and recorded hit songs like Ako Ukwete Ni Ako Kene, flip sided by Aka Koni, on Zambezi label

When he left Tokoza in 1985, he formed the Just Fusion Band with late Dickson Shabukome who sang Ni Chumba (Barren) and performed at the Inter Continental Hotel in Lusaka.

He now plays in the J.J Band at Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka every weekends which has Henry Banda (lead), Zacks Mazumbo (saxophone), and himself (Nicky) on drums and vocals.

During free days, Nicky has a hand in the Just Fusion at Inter Continental with Leo Lungu Jr playing Keyboard on Mondays and Tuesdays.

He has also recorded a solo album called Kambembile which has songs like Mukazi Wanga, Chikasahana, Chilumemdo, Chimutima Paku Malwa (Kaonde) Kamukowa at DB studios in Lusaka.

Nicky who was on lead vocals, was backed by the now defunct Amba 04 in which Jones Kabangwe played lead and rhythm, Aggrey Ndopu (bass) and Daniel Banda on keyboard.

On the current music, Nicky retorted; "They are lazy (young stars). Anyone can do that, go to the studio, sit on the computer generate sounds and start singing.That's why they fail to perform live.They like miming and suppose the CD skips what happens?

"Musicians should have continued from where the legends left but the worst thing is that, they can't play any instruments," he lamented.

Married with eight children and several grand children whose number he can't remember, Nicky is still going strong and has put together a gospel album which he wants to release soon.

Given enough latitude, he and other legends who are planning a comeback, can form a powerful combination.

He is really a musical sojourner and who knows, he could be instrumental in the rounding up of all those legends to form an explosive band to signal the revival of Zamrock.

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