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March 21, 2007


At the World Social Forum I met a group of Zambians at their workshop on “Caravans as a tool for mobilization.” They taught me a song, we exchanged emails, and I said, “hey, maybe I’ll visit you.” And here I am.

When I got into Zambia, I called my friend Chamanyazi from a public phone. When I got off, the group of men nearby asked, “was that Chamanyazi?!” I answered, naively thinking that they were a friend of his too, “Yeah, do you know him?” “Not personally, but I love his music!”

This exact conversation was repeated the two other times I called him from a public phone. Little by little I figured out that he’s quite the rockstar here in Zambia.

But he’s my hero because he is a creative and tireless activist with his music. He’s also just a happy and humble guy, nervously giggling whenever random people on the street call out their love to him.

As I tagged along with him around town, I started to piece together his myriad projects. First, he has his 12 piece band (Zambian music), and they practice for two hours every single afternoon – a strategy not only to get better but also to give people a productive focus in life. On the weekends they have shows, often for free inside the compounds (Zambian word for slum, ghetto, informal settlement, township, etc.). People absolutely love them.

Their studio is in the center of the very crowded market next to one of the compounds… and Chamanyazi invites youth to come in and share their musical talent. If they’re decent, Chamanyazi invites them to do a few songs during their next show… so their shows often last 5 of 6 very fun hours.

He also hosts a few TV shows on the most popular TV station, also focused on youth and music. He’s currently doing auditions for a youth “Zambian Idol” type show… 200 people showed up for tryouts last Saturday.

With a friend, Chamanyazi wants to open a community radio station in the Copper Belt, the northern area of the country focused on copper mining… and also quite underserved.

He is always running around, helping friends, or working on some project or another. Yesterday I tried to attend his bands’ rehearsal, but the electricity was cut for the afternoon… a usual event in Lusaka. But it was great to see another World Social Forum friend, Jacqueline. Very sweet.

At the studio:

He took me on a drive...

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