16 March 2013

Zambia: Remembering Pk Chishala - Kalindula Guru

CONTROVERSIAL Zambian blind musician Peter Kalumba Chishala passed on more than 18 years ago, but this man's spirit appears to hover around wherever his music is played.

It has been very difficult to wade off the impact of his death which robbed the Zambian industry of a musical ingredient.

Over the last two decades, the Zambian music industry had witnessed a gradual loss of big names who were purveyors of Zam-rhumba music such as, Nashil Pitchen Kazembe, Peter Tsotsi Juma and Benson Simbeye among them.

PK as he was popularly referred to and adored by his admirers, was a brilliant and talented musician who became a topic in bars and households over some of his controversial songs like, Ba Pastor and Church Elder for example.

This is the man who actually started as a Zamrock musician without success before going on to become one of Zambia's music icons who will never be forgotten in the history of this country's music industry.

Although PK wanted to become a priest or at least go to a Bible college, this was not in his blood which was already saturated by the desire to do music in life.

The whole episode of PK's music career exploded in Western Province, shortly after passing his Form One at Mambilima Primary school in Luapula to come to Sefula Secondary in Mongu.

This is where he met one of hios close colleagues, Patrick Muyenga, an ardent guitar player and composer who mixed very well with him.

Muyenga who is now acting director for rehabilitation at the Zambia Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Lusaka, described PK as a useful asset with whom he spent every moment.

"I met PK Chishala at Sefula in Western Province when we were in form One in 1975. We had a common mind, sharing in a lot of things like music of artistes such as Jonny Nash, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner and all that stuff. It was fun at the time you know," Muyenga explains.

PK who also had a short stay in Congo DR where his parents worked for the mines there, loved Congolese music mainly done by Franco, Johnny Bokelo, Ochestrs Lipua Lipua and Ochestra Veve, who in the early 1970s, lived in Kitwe's Twatasha Township. It was while in Mongu that PK formed a small band called the Red Seals then, using box guitars, livening up enthusiastic audiences in Limulunga and Namushakende.

The band comprised Chris Phiri on bass, PK on rhythm, Muyenga playing lead guitar with a man only known as Chinyemba completing the line up on drums.

The band did much of rock music covers of mainly the Rolling Stones spiced with Zamrock music was a darling of the mongu revellers.

After stealing the limelight, ther group changed its name to the Western Eagles and continued to roll on and over the whole province.

In 1978, while in Form four, PK and Muyenga visited Chingola and while there, they recorded a single Ichisosa chipa amano flip sided by Bunde in Lozi, at Malachite Studio assisted by the late veteran folk singer Emmanuel Mulemena.

The sales for the single which was on Teal Record Company label, were not inspiring but PK did not lose hope.

When he tried to do Zamrock, it was a complete flop and things did not seem to go well with him music wise.

After some advice from the then Teal Record Company general manager Faisal Nanavat, he switched to Zambian traditional music, which he approached on a slow note.

He attempted to do a song called Umuti Wa Lupiya and Makwenyani under the Kalimba label asisted by Graig Miyanda then working for Teal, who was also the singer of a popular song, Mombe wa ba aisha.

According to Muyenga, the single did not command much attention maybe it was coming from musicians who had not made a grade in show biz.

"It was not easy and things became tough and after advice from Mr Nanavat, we came back with full force and fought for a contract with Teal," Muyenga explained.

At his time PK and Muyenga decided to go on a self promotional tour of Lusaka, Ndola and Kitwe, where they interacted with the Five Revolutions, Machine Gunners, Yathagans, Blackfoot and the likes, just for exposure.

After school, Muyenga got a job at the Zambia Centre for the Physically Handicapped and went to live with PK at Kambowa on the Ndola-Kabwe highway.

"We used the base to compose most of the songs that PK recorded. The place was a blessing in disguise as it was quiet and we could work on the songs like Ba Pastor throughout the night," Muyenga said.

In 1985, when the song Ba Pastor was composed, Malachite studios refused to record the song because of the controversial lyrics it contained about Jesus and his alleged girlfriends.

When no one was willing to record it, an idea came to take it to Kitwe's Piano House then housed on top of a building next to Indo Zambia Bank at Kaunda Square and whose proprietor a Mr Kruger, owned a recording studio in Riverside.

"Aparently, Mr Kruger did not understand Bemba and this made it easy for us to record freely. When it came out, it was a hit and within a few days, there were letters in the print and electronic media criticising us and the song," Muyenga recalls.

Kruger got wind of it and hunted the duo down and when he caught up with them at the then Top Hat bar in Ndola, now encompassing Pep Store and a shopping centre, he was fuming for making him record what he called a blasphemous song and banned them from recording at his studio.

"Kruger banned us from recording at his studio and did not want to see us again," Muyenga says.

With Ba Pastor becoming a blockbuster, PK was now on the war path to stardom. Ba Pastor won the 1985 Song of the Year award,

PK was now riding cloud nine and in 1987, he composed Church Elder, which was equally a big hit and won him the soloist of the year award.

This song took him to perform at the World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) in London organised by Charlie Gillet, a former BBC staffer.

Another hot song was Umunandi, which was originally composed and perfomed in Swahili by Jean Bosco Mwenda who was a Zambian musician 'exiled' in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We got a few relics from that song and translated it into Bemba, added more words to make it even more interesting,It was a big hit," Muyenga revealed.

PK was always thinking of education advancement and in the process, enrolled for a Youth Social Work course at Kitwe's Mindola Ecumenical Foundation (MEF) where he graduated with a Diploma in Youth Social Work.

When he worked for the Zambia Cenbtre for the Physically Handicapped, he worked at the Kitwe Government adminstrative offices and lived in Chimwemwe Township where he jammed at gatherings and bars commanding a large following.

PK has four albums to his credit, among them were Church Elder on Kariba label which had songs like, Impumba Mikowa, Mutete (Luvale), Church elder, Indoshi, Imbowa, We Bushiku Bu lalepa, which was banned from the Zambian radio airwaves.

The second album, Na Musonda, backed on vocals by his wife Harriet, had songs like Nakufele, Business woman and Ku bwaiche, among them and came off very well on the local music charts.

The third album Common Man, had some of the controversial songs like Muchi Bolya (Mwali ba tata lelo mwalila utoni), which was well received in political circles especially after the multi party elections of 1991.

Other songs were, Lelo Ni weekend, Ichupo Ni nsansa, and Common Man which was originally composed and perfomred by Benson Simbeye, who also sang Uwambeyele Ulkusu Mupanga (nshakamulabe).

Another album was Umwaume wa kulutuku and sang other songs like Tusangalele (Umwana wandi naupwa).

He also has to his credit songs like, Chimbayambaya (nsenda), Tulile Ing'omba and Umuti was Aids (kuichindika) including many other songs too numerous to mention.

PK will be unforgeteable at least in many decades to come.

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