John and I treated the music recording project as a learning opportunity. We were driven by the need to learn and to create a work of art rather than the need to make money.
As it turned out, we spent more money than we would have done had we followed more conventional methods of producing a music album. This did not really worry John because he made it clear that we should see the project as an opportunity to enjoy ourselves.
John adopted a leadership style that encouraged everyone to bring out their best. When you consider that the group was made up of very creative and strongly opinionated individual personalities, you would have to agree that John’s leadership and management skills were very effective.
When I consider my harsh and military style of leadership, I am amazed at how it was possible for two people with contrasting approaches to work together so well.
When it came to making decisions on the direction and quality of the music, John made it clear to everyone that I enjoyed his full support at all times. Even John himself did not dispute my final decisions in those cases where there was disagreement on technical issues.
For instance, at one point, my brother Kingstone expressed his displeasure with what he regarded as my inflexible leadership style, and said that unless I changed my approach, he had no option but to quit. As sad as John was to lose such a brilliant talent, he chose to let my brother leave rather than put pressure
on me to change.
Because my brother loves music and singing so much, he later decided to come back unconditionally and was able to carry on to the very end of the project.
In the early stage of our recording project, we would work on one song at a time – writing, arranging, rehearsing, and recording it. We would listen to the song to evaluate it and draw lessons from it before moving on to the next one.
For example, when we had completed the first song, “Ubwinga”, we agreed that we should test the song on a live audience. The opportunity to do so presented itself through a medical friend of John, Dr Manasseh Phiri, who was owner and DJ of Afrocentrics, a mobile discotheque.
When we heard that he would be playing his music at the Kitwe Little Theatre that weekend, we decided to invite ourselves to his function, equipped with the instrumental version our song on a CD in an appropriate format. Dr Phiri agreed to play our song.
The response from the audience was encouraging. As soon as the song started playing, almost everyone got onto the dance floor and danced to our music which they were hearing for the very first time.
After the function, Dr Phiri, who is a lover and an expert of African music, invited John and Kingstone for an interview to one of his radio programmes on Radio Icengelo. By the time John and Kingstone were featuring on the programme, we had managed to prepare a few more songs to be played on the
programme. John was allowed to introduce each of the songs. The songs included one of Kingstone’s favorite songs from the Ubwinga album, “Icitemwikwa.”
I was happy to hear my brother Kingstone acknowledge that although I was a hard man I actually meant well, and the outcome of my management style was positive.
One incident which demonstrated the positive outcomes of my approach was the making of “Imbeka.”
We had agreed that John should write one of two more songs to complete the music album. One of these songs was “Imbeka”. On the agreed date, I travelled to Kitwe from Mufulira, where I was then living, to check on how the song had turned out. John informed me that he had failed to beat the deadline.
I told John that I was disappointed with him for failing to meet the deadline. We agreed on a new target date for the completion of the song. When I next paid John a visit, he informed me that he had completed the song but was not sure that I would like it.
When I listened to the song, I instantly loved it. John thought it was rather monotonous and needed a little more work to improve it. I told him I liked it as it was. I thought it was a brilliant composition.
I got the guitarists together to rehearse the song. I insisted that they should play it the way John had arranged it on his keyboard. The musical accompaniment to the song included a recurring note that I wanted
them to reproduce in spite of their suggestion that the note be left out.
We went ahead to record the instrumental part of the song in the studio. When it was Kingstone’s turn to add the main vocals, he suggested that the song was too monotonous and boring. He did not feel it was interesting enough for him to sing it with conviction.
I remember telling him in a rather dictatorial manner that he had to do it exactly the way it was. I told him that the problem was in his mind and not in the song. I told him that if he wanted to, he could make it the most interesting song of the lot by simply changing his mind-set and believing in the song.
“Do it!” I shouted at him. “I expect nothing but the best from you.”
He paused for a moment before starting to sing. I could tell that he was undergoing some psychological change.
Kingstone then sang the song. I couldn’t believe the passion in his song as he sang through the verses of the song. He was brilliant throughout the song.
When I listened to the recorded voice of Kingstone, I was overcome by emotions. I couldn’t restrain myself from shedding tears of joy.
I decided that to make this song memorable, I should do it differently from the others. I asked Joseph, the lead guitar player, to load the song with as many different guitar sounds as he could. He added two solo guitars and an acoustic guitar.
When I later sat with Mark Siwale, the Studio engineer, to do the final mix, I found that the bass guitar played by Rocky was off in some places. I decided to hire the services
of a certain Jeff, a bass guitarist from Victory Ministries, to record over the original bass.
Mr Kingsley Sendama
When I played the finished song to the guitarists, they could not believe they had played the instruments on the song. I had transformed the song into a creative jazz sound. The song proved to be my late dad’s favorite because of its jazzy sound.
Mrs Nelly Sendama
When we had finished making the album, John and I sat to decide who the music album should be dedicated to. I suggested that we should dedicate it to his parents who were a fine example of what an ideal married couple should be. His parents, Mr Kingsley Sendama and Mrs Nelly Nyakasambala Sendama, have since passed on.
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