… The 90s music gurus
Music was born long before the current celebrated mixed and blended genres. It was not only the law but the universe. It is through music that people celebrated nationhood and identified their relevance in life. Namibia celebrated music legends such as Jackson Kaujeua, Willy Mbuende, Ndilimani, Kwela, Carlos Kambaekwa and a longer list of music architects. The Lounge takes a stance to celebrate the early days of those who were part of the musical foundation of the Land of the Brave. With over 40 years of experience in the music industry, Carlos Kambaekwa was the lead guitarist of the first multi-racial band in Namibia – Baronges – in the 70s. Baronges were the first black band that played in the auditorium of the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule (DHPS) in Windhoek in 1979. “It all started one day as I was busy with my newspaper deliveries when I heard a band practicing. I think they were busy rehearsing for a show for later on that night. As the band played, the music drew my attention. I instantly fell in love with music,” said Kambaekwa. According to Kambauekwa, bands were in the past established on tribal lines. “We decided to form Baronges because the Ovaherero tribe wasn’t represented in the music industry at that point.” The Baronges consisted of Carlos Kambauekwa (lead guitarist), Ben Varuka, Killian Karitja and Alex Kamaundju (guitarist and vocalist). The band was known for their smooth touch on genres like Pop Rock and Roll and covered versions of tracks by The Beetles, Stevie Wonder and many others.
Some of Kambaekwa’s brightest moments of his musical career were in the year 1979 when the band performed at the SANCO of Namibia in the auditorium of DHPS. “That year marked the first time ever in Namibian history that a black band performed in those auditoriums. What excited us was the fact that we were performing for a white audience and competing against white bands,” recalls the music legend. “That was one of the most exiting parts of my career. There was a year I think in the mid-80s when South African troops out of nowhere started shooting at the crowed while we were performing at a SWAPO rally. It wasn’t funny then but now as I look back I laugh at that experience,” Kambaekwa said as he giggled. Compared to today, Kambaekwa noted that the music industry has changed drastically. “Artists have better opportunities now. They can find almost anything on the internet unlike when we were doing music we had to learn cord by cord, note by note from the cassette player. Sometimes we would have to play a song over and over just to get the right notes.” He advised upcoming artists to take music seriously because it is a universal language that changes the minds and lives of millions across the globe. He adds that they should do away with what he terms as ‘bubble gum music’ which,
according to him, is programmed music.
Ras Sheehama is another pioneer in the Namibian music industry. He is known for his outstanding touch on the Afro-Reggae blend. His lyrics show consciousness, integrity, sharp observation and humanity while conveying both socio-political criticism as well as messages of peace, love and wisdom. With his over 20 years of musical experience, soothing voice, diverse repertoire and charismatic stage performances, Sheehama comes back part of the Ndilimani Cultural Troup and was part of the first Namibian election campaign. Later on he decided to part with the band because he wanted to be an individual artist, a singer and song writer. “I thought it would be nice to go out and do my own thing,” said Sheehama. In the olden days, Sheehama would to Club Thriller during his leisure time as it was the music platform. He met a few people there whom he made friends with and later formed a little band called ‘Yola Yola’ which directly translates as laughter in the Oshiwambo language.
“I think the name came from all the laugher that was endorsed amongst the members of the band,” emphasized Sheehama. Unfortunately, Yola Yola died after independence as most of the members were foreign and had to return back to their countries. Sheehama continued to pursue music as a fulltime career and came out on second place in The Annual Music Makers Awards to the late Jackson Kaujeua in the early 1990. Around the same time Sheehama won the overall best Music Maker which triggered his signing up under Paul J’bit Music Production – the then only record label with artist such as Richard Mayer, Jackson Kaujeua and Peter Joseph Auxab. The record label flew him to South Africa to record is first album ‘Kings Music’ which featured songs like ‘Casinga’, ‘Clean up the region’ and ‘Mother Africa’. “This was the album which made a household name in the country and surroundings,” said Sheehama. Sheehama shared the same sentiments with Kambaekwa that music has indeed changed today.
“Music that used to be popular isn’t as popular anymore. However, music, just like anything else requires evolution and it will constantly be changing.” The music legends phenomenal style of choice continues to live and compete with modern music. Sheehama has been nominated in four categories in the Namibian Annual Music Awards (NAMA Awards) for 2016. He is nominated in the categories of Best Song with a Message with the song ‘Song For You,’ Best Reggae – ‘Nakambalu Reggae’ and the category Best Live Performance of the Year. The Reggae legend is expected to perform in Nigeria today (March 18, 2016) before he launches his 7th album in mid-April 2016.