Pompi and Mag44 are easily recognizable names in any discussion surrounding music in Zambia. Anyone who was in tune with Zambian Hip Hop about a decade ago will be familiar with the “secular” Pompi’s jaw dropping punchlines in “Bring The Bass” such as “gold diggers pester/haters cant take the arsenal like Manchester” (yes, I know such lines made a whole lot more sense back then, LOL) or “Some of y’all like me, some of y’all spite me/but forever I will stay in check like Nike.” He dropped other similar gems like the Andy P and Nox assisted Hustlin’, or the Nox and Slap D assisted Blazhay, during a short-lived run that showed potential of being of colossal eminence. During his self-imposed sabbatical to pursue studies in South Africa apparently, Pompi had a spiritual re awakening and re introduced himself as a rebranded man of faith to the masses with the female empowerment anthem “Make Up” which was a prelude to his renowned debut album Mizu circa 2013.
Mag44’s reputation has traditionally been as a beat maker and producer. His abilities on the mic only came into prominence in about 2011 when he released the smash hit Vichani featuring none other than Pompi who remains one of his most frequent collaborators to date. Mag44 has been behind the boards for many a Zambian project with his distinct, signature “Mag44 drums” tagline. His debut album Jijue : Self Discovery released in 2013 spawned hit songs like the title track featuring Seya, Dance before you sit, Takwaba featuring Manasseh (fka MKV), Pwililika featuring Karen and the infectious and timeless banger Me I Beat featuring former female boxing Champion Esther Phiri. His follow up effort Brave Only released in 2015 did not receive as much critical acclaim as its predecessor but still contained some notable tunes like the Lelwa assisted Mwentula.
Pompi and Mag 44 teased this collaborative project earlier this year with the release of Do It, which was purportedly written, recorded, arranged with accompanying visuals within 24 hours. An amazing feat that birthed the idea of the Bwana project.
The album starts on an uplifting and energetic tone with the opener Joy featuring a welcome cameo appearance from Abel Chungu Musuka. This introduction sets the bar really high for the remainder of the project. As mentioned before, these are not only brothers in arms, but brothers in faith as well, and their strong spiritual affiliation shines brightly throughout the album. I have always had an internal debate on whether Pompi can actually carry a tune, or rather that he is such a likeable character that we excuse his shortcomings in this area. However, with Joy, Pompi carries the majority of the song, and singer or not, this man is certainly melodic. The song’s conclusion features a mash up of Abel’s smooth vocals and Pompi’s background melody perfectly complementing each other.
The title track Bwana is a smooth Afro pop song laced with African drums serving as an exultation of the God they both proudly serve in this album. The two Emcee’s trade bars over the heavy African music influenced soundscape and they are perfectly complemented by the soulful Esther Chungu who features on the song. The third song Eagles acts as one of the album’s low points. With a conservative rhumbaesque instrumental, it serves as a patriotic call to arms that faith in the Lord will turn things around for the better. The concept of the song is good but my reservations may be based on my current opinion and mind state regarding the nation’s current administrators (but that’s a topic for another day and another blog, but I digress).
The subsequent two songs Longosoka and Ntanganana featuring Super Rhymer would appeal most to hip hop purists as this is when both Mag44 and Pompi flex their lyrical verbal artillery. In Longosoka, Mag had my ears buzzing when he said “Nisabaila osa ona monga na baila/sweet course na ma good things najaila/Zina yanga in the good book na saina/Now the Kingdom people taking over kwati Ba China.” That rhyme scheme in those four bars had me rewinding the song a few times. When Pompi closed his Ntaganana verse with “This is not Musical Chairs/This is abundance in a way you have never seen/A tree by the river, this is evergreen/Be the best light that they ever seen/Illumination of the melanin,” I was reminded that the man can rap as much as he can hold a melody and his biggest strength is being able to effortlessly switch between the two. I must admit at first listen, I did not like these two songs, and skipped them a few times after, but the rap enthusiast in me just couldn’t let those bars pass me by and I genuinely like them now.
The highlight of the album has to be in the latter part of it. Wishing is a soulful and moving tribute to significant others and features Pompi’s elder sister Nasana. It is also my personal favourite cut of the album and I think I have irritated my household with numerous repeat plays of it at high volume. Luyando is a catchy guide on Love and features media personality Lulu Hangaala Wood (who I had no idea could sing, and is actually really decent) and Sam Chitundu. It is quickly followed by fan favourite Kontolola which could become a prescriptive wellness anthem with its rallying cry of “Yenzo nikola mantha/Osati lelo, madalitso munamanga/Yesu akontolo – kontolola.” African Blues like the name suggests is a memorable rendition of modern-day Blues with a significant African twist and features the songstress Seya and Brian Windsor on the harmonica. The latter part of the album is definitely more outstanding than the start and has significant replay value.
Nyimbo was the first single of the album and was released a few weeks prior to the album rollout and is currently the only song with visuals. Bwana closes with Tiger, a rousing authentic hip hop cut reminiscent of an era when you would bop your head to not only a good instrumental but to what the rapper was saying as well. It features the self-proclaimed Lyrical Sensei Chef187, who is arguably the biggest rapper currently. At first, I thought he would be misplaced as secular artist on this project, but the chemistry between the three Emcees is undeniable and the catchy hook which pays homage to golfer Tiger Wood’s sporting comeback all makes for an irrefutably fire song. This was the perfect closing to the album.
Bwana is such a refreshing release in my humble opinion. Released during the same period as Kanye West’s conversion to Christianity and the subsequent release of his conspicuous Jesus Is King album (a discussion for an entirely different blog, just mentioned for comparison sake). In my opinion, Bwana shows that you do not have to forego your artistic authenticity and work ethic when proclaiming your faith first and foremost. You can easily do both simultaneously and come up with a credible product. The production handled for the most part by Mag44 is above par, the subject matter is relevant to the current times and relatable to many, and the lyrical delivery is as expected of two seasoned veterans. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, “Bwana is an album for Bwanas”
By Yombo “That Boy J” Mutumba
Short Bio : Y’all should already know me by now….LOL
Twitter : @Odyssey529