Down Musical Memory Lane – Pioneer of traditional music, Lexington, to date has to earn a cent from his works
With Carlos Kambaekwa
Namibian Independence in 1990 has brought the much-needed awareness and sense of belonging in terms of cultural attachment and consciousness .
Today, a significant number of would be musos, and established artists, are craving to polish their raw musical talents through their mother tongue accompanied by old fashion rhythms. Gone are the days when those living in the urban areas during the height of Apartheid would feel like shunning their traditions, just for the sake of being accepted into the so called civilized society. Gone are the days when authorities will restrict traditional music to sporadic airtime on the language radio services. Of late, traditional music has taken centre stage with the Oviritje, Mgaisa and Hip Hop genres leading the pack but none other musical genre has captured the imagination of local music lovers, including that of migrants, than the fast growing Shambo music.
Traditional folk music was regarded as a pastime for those who were supposedly in need of refinement, villagers and the uncivilized. It’s a pity those that have laid the foundation for traditional folk music are not getting the recognition they so dearly deserves. The musical duo of Kwela and Lexington set the local scene alight with their traditional folk music in the early 1970s. It took a pair of highly gifted musos from the then Ovamboland in South West Africa (SWA) to invade what was previously a sacred industry for the minorities. Johannes Armas (Kwela) and his buddy Michael Padjomunhu (Lexington) were extremely talented musicians who specialized in traditional folk music. The duo combined traditional guitar chords with constant duet voices to great perfection, and their musical virtuosos has left a legacy in the fundamental part of history in the genre of traditional folk music.
These days, traditional folk music has captured the imagination and admiration of the most sophisticated members of the local community including the who’s who of Namibia’s much-sought-after celebrities in musical circles. Bra Kwela and Lexington were among the very first local musicians to put their musical repertoire on record. They recorded their first album under the guidance of the late musical guru, Paul Joubert, in the 1970s and became an instant hit on the local languages service radio stations. Their hit songs, Okanyandi (I will not travel through Okanyandi again), Ndeyi Ndenga Moshifide (I knocked against a tree trunk) and Ohela-hela (a girl wanted to come with me) dominated the airwaves for long periods.
The pair would travel to various villages on bicycles to entertain people at private parties and weddings with Lexington on acoustic guitar and harmonies, while Kwela led the band’s repertoire with his pitch voice, singing and delivering the message in their preferred mother tongue. Their music has rubbed on off dozens of modern musicians, and those who have benefited immensely from their concept includes traditional folk singer and jazz guitarist, Jackson Wahengo, veteran folk muso Elemotho and a hordes of upcoming musicians.
Shambo dance music derives its name from “Shambo Shakambode”, popularised by folk acoustic guitarist, Kwela, and his trusted companion Lexington, Kangwe Keenyala and Meme Nanghili na Shima. The genre was started by Kwela and Lexington and was fine tuned by the equally gifted Steson Wahengo and the Mighty Dreads Band.
In spite, the duo’s unrivalled musical virtuosos, Kwela died a pauper succumbing to illness – leaving his buddy Lexington behind. The sad part of their musical success is that they never received a single penny for their efforts, despite their music having, and is still enjoying decent airtime on various radio stations. “Up to this day, we are yet to receive a single cent or any royalties from either sales or live broadcasts of our music. I have personally made several inquiries about our plight but to no avail,” confirms a distraught Lexington, the only surviving member of the duo.