The death of Zambian musician Joe “The Ambassador” Chibangu (41) has left a constriction in my throat, or to put it simply, a lump. Of course, because I was not only a fan, but also a friend of a friend, having met him through my childhood buddy Desh Desh with whom he shared the stage as The Rap Prophets alongside Sailee Nyondo.
But the lump in my throat has lingered, worsened by the flurry of Facebook eulogies showering him with accolades that were never said to his face while he still walked among the living.
Suddenly he is being bolstered as the man who helped usher a new era of contemporary Zambian music through his work as a producer at Mondo Music and rightfully so.
Reading the eulogies, the one entitled “JOE CHIBANGU THE AMBASSADOR- A TRAILBLAZER” attributed to His Excellency Emmanuel Mwamba High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia to South Africa. — as passionate as it is — aggravated the lump in my neck to the point of stifling. Concluding the enlightening piece he writes:
“Being a background hand with artists, I cry for the music and artist industry in Zambia. At least a fresh step was taken by President Edgar Lungu who created the Ministry of Tourism and Arts with the arm of Art, with a specific mandate to develop and accommodate artists, and make their creative industry attractive and beneficial both to the country and the artist.”
In my opinion this statement by the ambassador is the verbal equivalent of a smouldering pile of manure because as far as I know, correct me if I’m wrong, the Zambian Ministry of Tourism and Arts has done NOTHING tangible beyond its “mandate” to improve the playing field or lives of artists, beyond perhaps paying singers to play music at political rallies, if at all those monies are paid through the ministry. In short, government still cannot grasp the notion of a “Creative Economy”.
It is almost 5 years since the late President Michael Sata realigned the Ministry of Tourism and Arts and appointed Sylvia Masebo as minister, but clearly, nothing has really happened. Zambia is still the only country in the region without an International Arts Fair, National theatres, galleries, recording studios and schools arts competitions that one can write home about.
In this ministry, the arts are still overshadowed by “tourism”, again tourism that does not focus beyond the so-called Victoria Falls as a tourist attraction, but perhaps if we had a stand-alone Ministry of Arts and Culture things would be different, who knows?
I commend the efforts of Petersen Mukubesa Mundia I and Njoya Tembo for their lobbying that may culminate in a road being named after the late Chibangu. What artistes should be doing right now is to embark on the merciless lobbying for progress with regards the arts Bill that seems to be in limbo. Using their creative leverage, they should put all their petty rivalries and political differences aside and pursue government 24/7 until the Bill is implemented, make noise for the Bill. Having roads named after artistes will not improve the living standards of the creative community.
As for the much needed international exposure, Zambian artistes hustle through their own efforts to get it. His Excellency ambassador Mwamba has openly declared he is a friend of the arts, this is an opportunity for artistes to take him on and use the manure in his statement to fertilize a relationship with him, if you are a comedian, singer, drama group ask him to host you at his official home so that you can showcase Zambian talent. Visual artists, approach him to host an exhibition for his fellow ambassadors and important connections.
Perhaps by example, Mwamba’s fellow Zambian envoys across the globe will imitate him and become true ambassadors by showcasing the abundant artistic talent that Zambia has. #Ripjoechibangu
Source: Andrew Mulenga