9 February 2013

Zambia: Amayenge Band Still Ticking Under Alice Chali

WHEN Chris Chali, founder and lead singer of Amayenge Band died a decade ago, the future of the band was uncertain going by the history of many Zambian bands which when a leader dies have gone into oblivion.

This is a different story with the Amayenge Band now led by Alice Chali as the band is still ticking and kicking.

Determination and perseverance is what has held the band tight until today, says Alice Mwenge Chali, who can be best described as resilient.

She defied all doom predictors who thought that a woman could not run a band and managed to surpass expectations.

Born on September 15, 1973 in Lusaka, the mother of two boys and a girl is a staunch Christian who balances her music with church activities.

She is a member of the Nazareth Women's Lay Group of St Joseph Parish in Chilenje, something which she takes great pride in.

One would think that she would have problems striking a balance between her church roles and music, but the humble legend says she manages with self-discipline.

It is this same discipline that has seen the band to grow from 15 to 20 members a feat which has made her a household name.

Alice admits that when Chris died, it was hard to continue but the band members were more eager to maintain the band because they shared the vision with the late Chris.

"We sat and just decided to continue as a band and we have maintained the same band members with a few new members," she says.

The fact that the band's original members are still together is testimony to the kind of leader that is at the helm.

"The band has a good relationship, we are like family; of course we need a certain level of discipline in the band and this is achieved with the assistance of Frazier, our band manager with the help of Chali's nephews, Obert and Eddy," she says.

Her family has always been supportive of her career.

She is a woman who has seen Zambian music evolve over the 23 years of her music career and that is what has helped the band to maintain its uniqueness.

"The music industry has changed since we started. For example, when we began, the only genre we had was kalindula but now we have more genres and more diversity," she says.

For someone who is approaching the ripe age of 40, her elegance and timeless beauty fits the old adage of 'Life beginning at 40'.

She does not have any fussy beauty regimes and seems unaware of her looks.

The Amayenge Band is one of the few bands that records and performs songs in different Zambian languages while still sounding flawless.

This is different from some artistes who obviously strain when they sing in a different language thus irritating listeners.

Alice has managed to overcome this problem because she knows most of the major languages spoken in Zambia.

"I know most of the major languages in the country and it is also an advantage that I have band members from different parts of the country," she says.

Band members write various songs which everyone has to learn thus making it easy for the band to have a variety of songs.

The band has faced financial problems, a situation which has affected the recording of new songs.

With two albums released under the bands name, it is evident that Alice's prowess has enabled tracks such as Mangolwa to be timeless.

Alice says she won't retire or give up her legendary performances soon.

This is obviously a refreshing assurance for her legions of fans that troupe to the many locations where the band performs.

She said she has no intention of retiring because she was born an entertainer.

She, however, wants to become a teacher of music so that she mentors young people.

Alice has been nominated for the inaugural Zambian Music Awards under the category of Lifetime Achievement Award.

The band has also been nominated under the 'Best Band category' a nomination that has pleased the band and their lead singer.

The band has scored some successes which include performing abroad in China, Canada and Nigeria.

Alice said the China trip was a cultural exchange which was memorable for the band.

She attributed the band's success to the commitment and discipline.

Between balancing work, church and family, one wonders what time the woman ever gets to relax.

"To relax, I stay at home and watch Nigerian movies, I also listen to a lot of gospel and secular music," she says.

Alice is practically a guru on music now and she gives advice to female artistes who wish to enter the world of music and live performances.

"Self discipline is vital and very important; you have to be disciplined and also work hard," She says.

With her continued success and flawless reputation, one can probably call this her secret to her success.

Alice is an example to show that faith, discipline and hard work are enough to cross the negative crossroads of life.

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