Mumba Yachi: Singer, Songwriter and Proud African
Meet Mumba Yachi, the unique talent whose music is deeply rooted in African tradition, culture and values stands out in a continental context where many prefer to embrace Western influences.
Born Cedric Mumba Yanfwa Chitenta Fundi Mukenge, Mumba Yachi is the first born of 10 children and grew up in Mokambo - a border town between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Commonly referred to in the media as a “folk” musician, his music is not only folk but a mix of jazz, folk, Congolese Rumba and Zambian Kalindula. The base of his music is folk, it is always guitar driven and draws from legendary musicians including Fela Kuti with his use of trumpets and Kofi Olomide. When asked about his influences, he explains that being a Gemini he is partly characterized by failing to make his mind up. His music then draws inspiration from different genres. He looks to those who came before him for creating music that had a “punch” and so his goal is to simply create good music.
With his guitar playing, Mumba Yachi describes himself as a “lazy guitarist” who learned guitar chords at a time when he never had a band to back him. “When you are starting it is very difficult to have people who can believe in you and start backing you,” he states, “so you just have to make an effort, know those chords and play yourself.”
Mumba Yachi’s music is full of cultural references and themes that are true to the Zambian/African context. In the song Mokambo he sings about missing his beloved hometown, and mentions traditional fruits and food including intungulu (indigenous fruit), ifyumbu (sweet potato) and ifisungulu (indigenous fruit). He also speaks of how moving to Kalale (the city) from the village may not always live up to ones expectations. In another song, Ameno mafupa (teeth are bones), derived from a traditional proverb, he speaks of wisdom passed on from his mother: you never know your friends until you find yourself in times of trouble.
With regards to creative process, Mumba Yachi does his best work when he is happy. When he is sad, he tries to make happy songs to run away from the sadness but when he’s happy he adds his full emotion to his songs.
Mumba Yachi explains that embracing who we are is important and in doing so through art, we promote what our forefathers taught us. If you are born in Africa the plants can heal you when you are ill and you can eat indigenous food to nourish yourself. It simply doesn’t make sense to embrace things that come from crossing seas before looking at what is in your own county first. He believes that, “If you want to be considered and to be respected in this world, you need to embrace your culture.”
In the Zambian cultural context parents are not always accepting of their children taking a career path as a creative and are more in favour of education leading to formal employment. This was no different for Mumba Yachi’s mother who wanted her children to do well academically. She was against him pursuing a music career even though he got his music talent from her. Her compromise was for him, at the very least, to finish his high school education to serve as an example for his siblings and then go on to pursue music.
He believes that parents need to change their mentality. Mumba Yachi was lucky enough to have a father who believed in him: his father paying for his first recording project and his first ticket to travel to Zambia’s capital Lusaka because he had faith in his son’s talent. He believes that parents need to stop forcing their children to do things that they are not capable of and that it falls on this generation to empower their children to pursue their interests and talents.
With a 10-year career Mumba Yachi owes his consistency to his passion. It is passion that makes him wake up each day, go to the studio, write songs and rehearse. Over the last decade, he has naturally performed for diverse audiences. His best audience by far was in 2012, in Garden Compound, Lusaka at a school where he performed in front of children. Children are not an easy audience as it is difficult to keep their attention. Yet these children could sing along to his songs and to his surprise they knew it was his birthday and sung him happy birthday.
Anyone who has met Mumba Yachi will agree that he has a warm character, is receptive to fans reaching out and appreciates and values them. When he is not in the best mood, he believes it is best not to move around too much because people don’t need your attitude but your respect.
His next album entitled ‘The Great Work Volume 2’ will be released on 2nd November at the American International School in Lusaka during a night of African music.
It is without a doubt that Mumba Yachi will continue to stand out among the younger age group for staying true to his roots as an African in his music and in life.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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