St Michael Zulu

We chatted before the ceremony and St Michael was very pleased to be carrying the flag of Zambia – in fact the first nominee from that country.

And little did he know at that stage – the first winner.

“The musicians of Zambia are the hardest working, but Zambian music has never been explored, it is unknown. You really struggle as an artist to make contact and get to know artists across borders.”

What about the involvement of this American R&B music at the kora’s – is this necessary?

“As much as it is diluting the focus – it is emphasising the point that the core of the earth is Africa.”

And the core of your musical background?

“I come from Zambia which is a landlocked country and a musically landlocked country too. My music has to be social commentary.”

“My country says I am one of the most controversial because I don’t mince my words – I wont call a spade a big spoon – I call it a spade. It is very important for artists to be a reflection of society because most of the media is government controlled. Personally I don’t find myself controversial. I do have a song called the presidents daughter talking about corruption. Sometimes I have had guns pointed at me, I’ve been threatened, but it should be an example to other artists. There’s a lot more that needs to be put on the table. For example in Zambia there is some of the best copper but now we are 80% below the poverty line.”

“It is the policy makers – in my country there is no ministry that looks at music. They don’t recognise music. The only time a musician is important in Zambia is election time. Like now. Thereafter you are back in the backyard.”

And where does the solution lie?

“It took 400 years, the reversal takes time.”

St Michael is a rastafarian – we chatted briefly about Mutaburuka’s rasta re-patronisation plan and the value of the religion to this continent:

“They call Zambia a Christian nation but look at the churches – there is a lot of aids and divorce. At the end of the day every African is a Rastafarian they may not know it. Like the Chinese have their gods, a Rastafarian is a reflection of Africa and it sets an example of what an African should be.”

Okay, he’s playing reggae, he’s talking Rasta – but what makes him Zambian and what is Zambian?

“First of all my nature makes me Zambian. I have a lot of Zambian influence – this acoustic kind of sound. Some danceable rhythm, which is exclusive to us. It is called Kaludoula.”

“We have had various influences since time immemorial – everyone has gone through Zambia – the Arabs, the missionaries. Zambia has been a focal point as well as a distribution point. There is no particular Zambian culture – there is a mixture of world cultures. But within that you will always notice Zambian music.”

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