“… as i wear something they call a uniform, which with every twist of a button compresses and contains my true form, which cries out for freedom in a small cubical ,looking out into the summer sun and admiring the children having fun , and like a true son of a gun I fall slowly into sleep while tapping the pen on the table …..”
Late 2016 saw the release of the debut EP by singer/songwriter, Chembo. She unveiled the EP, Love VS Reality in an intimate listening session that I had the pleasure of attending. This was my first time to witness Chembo performing live and I was blown away. It wasn’t a big production just her voice and an acoustic guitar played by talented guitarist Stanley.
The first song I heard from her was, incidentally, the first song she ever released, “Suga honey ice tea”, in 2011. There was something about her that made me follow her career. I’m glad I did as she has grown musically, evolving her sound and subject matter.
I recently caught up with her for an interview:
KAPA KAUMBA: At the end of last year you released your debut EP ‘Love VS Reality’. What was the concept of the EP?
CHEMBO: The concept was to simply play with the themes of utopia vs. dystopia throughout the thread of the EP. I felt the need to mix the darker themed songs like Tightrope with playful almost bubblegum reggae songs like Forever.
KAPA KAUMBA: Those two songs happen to be my personal favorites off the EP. What is the story behind them?
CHEMBO: (I’m so happy that these two are your favorites)
Tightrope is a story about a young woman who’s searching for meaning and trying to make her life make sense while everyone waits for her to fail.
Forever is a very utopian themed song. It’s about that love that makes you feel too amazing that you can’t stop praising your lover, and that’s basically all I do in the song, praise a fictional perfect lover.
KAPA KAUMBA: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt from the time you released ‘Love VS Reality’ until now?
CHEMBO: Wow, so many lessons. I’ll just pick a handful;
- One is; I should never feel bad for being a perfectionist because there’s nothing cute about sub par work.
- Pick your producers wisely and make sure you push them too if you want your work to be on point.
- I learnt that I have the right to express whatever I feel and I should not be afraid to collaborate with producers/artists/writers who have a similar vision.
- I also learnt to trust myself a lot more. I know it’s possible to achieve a lot more because I’ve done it once. I can do even more.
KAPA KAUMBA: Do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before a live performance?
CHEMBO: performance rituals? I avoid ALL dairy products because dairy is just so bad for your voice (when recording or performing).
I like to sit in silence for a few minutes, have some warm water. Do two or three vocal warm ups and then a quick thank you to God then I’m on star.
KAPA KAUMBA: In your view, what is more important; quantity or quality i.e. Would you rather record numerous songs then select the best to put on an album or have a set number of songs to record and make sure they are the best they can be.
CHEMBO: I think both matter just as much to me, well recently. I used to just put out a song and let it be for ages. But my EP and the singles from it have taught me to be consistent but with quality. I’m still learning this so I’m now pushing myself to record more especially for this summer time.
KAPA KAUMBA: That’s some good news for your fans. Speaking of quality music, what is your take on the state of Zambian music right now? Are we on the right track? What, in your opinion, needs to be done to elevate it to the next level?
CHEMBO: This is a strangely difficult one to answer. I like the state of Zambian music. There are a lot of quality artists who are also not afraid to push more, which is encouraging. I always feel like the industry is growing, so I think we need to have way more music and way more diversity in music.
- One, we need more women in this industry that goes without even saying. Then we need more diversity in genres coz it seems we only have 3 in Zambia. Hiphop (in local languages) Dunka type music (pop) and Gospel/Soul. I want purely English rappers to thrive, Soulful pop guys like myself, R’n’b and some boy bands and girl groups please.
- We also need to learn to invest in our music, not just with money, but also with how we push and expose our music whether online or otherwise. It needs to be 100times above the current to just match international levels and ears.
KAPA KAUMBA: Great insight. You have been in the music industry for sometime now, what has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
CHEMBO: I have a few, Lake of stars music festival, Barefeet Festival, and getting my music on BBC (her single ‘Hey Mama’ was play listed on BBC radio wales) have to be highlights so far. I’m yet to truly have a career high the way I feel I’m capable to rise. So stay tuned.
KAPA KAUMBA: In that vein, do you have any future projects coming up that your fans will be excited to hear about?
CHEMBO: Music is how I breathe and art is how I execute so there’s definitely new stuff coming. Before my next project I’ll be dropping one or two “fillers” that will probably not be what people expect so that’s exciting.
KAPA KAUMBA: We definitely look forward to more from you. Any last words…
CHEMBO: Buy ‘Love vs. Reality’ EP from www.mvesesani.com, iTunes, Google Play or listen on Spotify.
Like my Facebook page: @chembomusic
And my music is on Soundcloud
Making of ‘Love Vs Reality
BY KAPA KAUMBA