Australian-based Zambian reggae musician Larry Maluma is a recognised star in both Australia and Zambia, with over 10 albums to his name and countless performances at festivals all over the world. Better late than never, he’s just released his 12th album – his long-lost debut recording!
The album, Ulemu (Respect), was released in Zambia in July, and internationally on 24 October, to mark Zambia’s Independence Day. Recorded in 1984 at DB studios and Multimedia Complex in Lusaka, the album is being released on Maluma’s own label, Safari Music, who hail the album as “a blast from the past into the future”.
Music journalist Charles Kachikota wrote in the Zambia Daily Mail on 24 August 1985: “The overall co-ordination of the songs is striking. Larry has a lot to offer and seems set to stand out. This is possibly the most up-to-date reggae production by any Zambian artiste."
Songs on the album include ‘Chakolwa (Drunkard)’, ‘Walking in the City’, ‘Chimutima Chako (You have issues)’, ‘Iwe Ganiza (You think)’, ‘1 to 5’, ‘Tulayane (Let’s Advise Each Other)’, ‘Ulemu (Respect)’, ‘Black or White’, ‘Staying in the World’ and ‘Simifi (Smith)’. The songs were recorded in 1984, when out of boredom Larry invited a few friends into the studio. His younger sister Trinity went with him just for fun and ended up singing the backing vocals on the tracks. Shortly after the recording, Maluma left for Australia in search of better opportunities.
Interviewed in August 2015 on ZNBC TV show Smooth Talk, Maluma revealed the story behind the ‘new’ album: “It’s my debut album. I actually forgot about this recording, which was on reel-to-reel tapes. When I got to Australia, I had this recording. Teal Record Company in Zambia in those days, the manager was very much interested in having me release this stuff. He wanted to send me to Zimbabwe to have it remixed because he liked it so much. But then I had the opportunity to go to Australia, so I thought, well I think I’ll take this, so I did, I left. I didn’t sign the contract, I left for Australia.
“When I got there, I was going to remix some of the stuff. I tried a bit, but I thought instead of messing around with the stuff from Zambia, we’ll get into some bigger studios and do something fresh. So I packed that in a trunk and I forgot about it, basically. Until about a year or two ago, I don’t know what happened, something must have reminded me. I went to open the trunk, which was in the garage, and I found the tapes.
“It was very interesting and I was very curious to hear what was on it. So I tried to look around for someone who had a reel-to-reel player. I didn’t find anyone, I looked around Australia. There was one guy who said the tape was too old, it had been around for about 30 years, so it would probably wear out while playing it. It might not even play. So I was thinking, this guy who recorded the stuff in Zambia, he might still be around. Let me just make a call. So I did, I called this guy from DB Studios, Peter Msungilo. I called him and he answered the phone, I said, ‘Have you go the the machine?’. He said, ‘I’ve still got it, I haven’t used it in a long time but it still there and it works’. I said, ‘I’ve got this tape which you recorded, I’d like to have a listen to it. I’ll send it, please look after it for me because I’d really like to have it back, and digitize it for me.’
“I sent it to him and I told him to treat it with care, which he did. He said it might take a few weeks to treat it, because he had to store it in a certain room at a certain temperature. I don’t know what he does, maybe he put a bit of charm in there. But he got it playing, and after a couple of weeks he put it on a disc for me and sent it back to Australia. When I got it back I was very very happy… I decided I’d get a couple of old tracks, which no one has ever heard before - and that’s the album. It’s actually my debut album, recorded in 1983/84.”
The title track, sung in the Zambian language of Nyanja, emphasises respect for people in different situations, warning that mocking others will one day backfire badly. Listen to it below or buy the album from iTunes here.