Here’s something pretty special, Zambian writer and musician Smokey Haangala’s 1976 album Aunka Ma Kwacha (The Money is Gone). Underpinned by the pulse of a simple drum machine (a device that was completely unheard of in Zambia at the time), with Aunka Ma Kwacha, Haangala stylistically ties together elements of psychedelic Zamrock, American folk music, Kalindula, and Sundown Beat (music played after dark) from Tongaland. Sung with beauty and heart in four languages (Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, and English), Haangala’s songs see him utilizing culturally complex sonic backdrops and delivery techniques drawn from Zambian folklore. With these tools at his disposal, he essays on the burdens of financial inequality, and how it impacts the arenas of personal life, love, marriage, social status and diet.
Within a broader context, aspects of Haangala’s work on Aunka Ma Kwacha parallel similar period experiments from Francis Bebey, Sly Stone, and Shuggie Otis. Yet another foreshadowing of the fusion of drum machines, synthesisers and live instrumentation that would become increasingly popular in later decades. Over its twelve songs, Aunka Ma Kwacha gently opens up, revealing itself as a unique proposition. It’s the sort that, alongside talent and drive, emerged as the result of the alchemical magic of musical styles; forms of technology and thinking converging through a unique mind operating within an equally unique era.
Outside of music, Haangala also worked as a journalist for the Times of Zambia, wrote poetry, and appeared on national television. Tragically, he died at age 38, the very week his novel The Black Eye was published, abruptly ending his brilliant, visionary rise. Warmhearted and strident, the music contained on Aunka Ma Kwacha is well worth spending some time with.
Listen to ‘Lungowe’ above.
Aunka Ma Kwacha is out through Séance Centre in LP format on Oct 10 (pre-order here)