HIP hop’s popularity on the Zambian music scene has grown in recent years. With the likes of Slap Dee and the award-winning C.R.I.S.I.S among the pioneers of the genre, hip hop has become one of the most listened music styles in the country.
Inspired by hip-hop’s progression in Zambia in the recent past is a youthful group called Zone Fam, formed two years ago and already making headlines around the region with their two singles Shaka Zulu on ‘em’ and Kambama (Ndine cikali) .
The group comprises Sam Sakala aka Dope G, South-African Reggie ‘ Young Verbal’ Lube, Jackson’ J Rox’ Ng’ambi a producer and Tim Chisenga aka Thugga.
The crew has so far registered notable success such as performing at the last month’s Big Brother Amplified eviction show and most recently, together with C.R.I.S.I.S, received a nomination for the most gifted newcomer for the forthcoming Channel O Music Video awards.
Their yet-to-be released debut album is called Business Foreign Exchange and The Weekend Post chats to the crew on various aspects in the following excerpt.
On the group’s origins
Dope G: We all started out as individual artistes but later me and J-Rocks met in high school at a hip-hop battle and started doing our thing. But the person that really brought all of us together is Duncan our manager, he identified our different talents and just brought us together as solo artiste recording with a studio called Zone Studios and eventually when we did some songs together as a group and worked together on songs like Pop that body. We just decided to work as Zone Fam because we realised that we sounded good together.
On the group’s initial influence and challenges
At the start, it was just the love for music, because we were all doing the same thing although at the time hip hop was not getting much of the attention in Zambia, media-wise, just in general especially English raps. So that’s how we took it upon ourselves to change that because we wanted to be heard. We tried our best to get our music out there through mixtapes, CDs. So our focus from the beginning has been to put hip-hop on the international scene.
On the group’s style
Our style is very different from most of the music out there because basically we all listen to different types of music and we there add a different touch to it.
On top of that we have identified a style that relates to both the Zambian market and the international stage because we have found a way to blend our local language and the English language just to put our messages across, so I guess that pretty much sums up what our style is.
I can say that the fact that we have four different minds working together, there is always something fresh added and there is a lot of creativity. The reason some artistes are still on the same level in Zambia is because they don’t like trying out new things. They always use the same style they started but with us guys there is always a different style and different ideas of looking at things.
On their music and social network
Social networks have really helped us push our music to a different level because when we started off, we took our music to radio stations but most of them did not have the faith in Zambian hip hop and because we rapped in English, I guess people felt hip hop that was made in Zambia wasn’t originally Zambian music. We tried our best to see what other ways we could use so I remember at the time, what was popular was My Space.com and we started making some contacts using that and every other network that we gotten on we have tried to interact and reached out to our audience and along the way we got to radio.
And right now we are on every social network so that no one is left out. We actually have different accounts to just interact with every body at the same time.
Dope G: And as at now we have close to 7, 500 members on our facebook page.
On the group’s lessons from the Big Brother Amplified performance
Young Verbal: The first lesson we learnt is that you are never ever prepared when it comes to a show, there is always marginal errors, so never feel content with whatever you are going to do in preparation. You can never be completely prepared. You should always have a back-up plan.
J-Rox: We also learnt that now, every time we record a song we should not do it for us but we should take into consideration of our country, we do it for the country, because when you go out there, it is not Zone Fam any more, it’s Zambia.
Dope G: The part of professionalism is one biggest lesson we learnt because in Zambia we tend to have a casual approach.
On the Channel O nomination
We were actually surprised to know that the song (Shaka Zulu on em) was nominated. We feel the reason we were nominated is because the song is different and we actually did not enter but they just picked the song.
Dope G: The only thing we did was to submit the video to Channel O for airplay. For some reason they kept it for a while and it didn’t play until a couple of months back. On MTV it played but Channel O held it. Maybe they were not convinced at the time, we don’t actually know but these are all speculations. Maybe they followed the number of requests the song received.
Young Verbal: Honestly we would just like to believe that hard work pays.
Advice to fellow artistes in Zambia?
I feel they just need to keep pushing. When you look at the Nigerians and the way they have done, they have a lot of music circulating and they keep supporting one another so there is strength in numbers…there is that spirit of patriotism that they have. So if we could also develop the same thing here, if we all had one common goal where we say we need to put our country on the map, we would work on that. We as Zone Fam are ready to work with anyone.