By CHRISTINE MWAABA –
IT was November 4, 2016 when the rare music persona Chanda ‘Beu’ Kaoma took spectators down a memory lane with his unique dance at Paddy Blue sports Café during the performance of the evergreen Amayenge ensemble in Lusaka.
His stage act was intimate and intense so much that he broke down, obviously to the surprise of many spectators who might not have realised that he practically grew up with the band and was heartbroken when the group lost its founding leader and guide in the name of Chris Chali.
Chali formed the group in 1978 in Choma.
The band, then, was originally called Crossbones and it was one of many Zambian acts that had spring up to do gigs based on rock.
Later the band became known as the New Crossbones, after a change in direction, sponsorship and management.
Then later known as Amayenge, the group is the longest surviving band in Zambia that is synonymous with the Kalindula style of music.
Chanda rose to fame in the 1980s. The muscle bound ‘strongman’ quickly rose to fame with his well-choreographed gravity defying stunts that he performed with the likes of Amayenge dancing queens and backing vocalists Loveness Kumwenda, Brenda Kambo, Mwangala Mubiana and Mercy Lungu.
His small muscular frame enabled him to dart beneath the legs of other dancers, shake as though he had been struck by an electric current or a bolt of lightning, or toss himself in the air and bounce off the ground as though he was immune to the pull of gravity.
For many years, Chanda was Amayenge’s ‘secret weapon,’ a star dancer whom Chali reserved for the climax of the show.
Chali even had a particular catchphrase for Chanda’s peculiar dance.
“Ba Chanda tabapona, babeuka fye,” which loosely meant that he could never fall down but only tip over, which was synonymous with his nick name Chanda ‘Beu.’
This was in reference to his antics of letting himself fall to the ground and then bouncing off like a tennis ball, or let himself rise to his feet without putting his hands on the ground.
He even made people believe that he had feline characteristics of landing on his feet even if he was thrown off balance.
None of the dancing queens could rival his capacity to wriggle the waist. Despite his height, he danced like one without bones in his body.
He was the main act who gave new bands in Zambia, like the Amba 04, a torrid time because no matter how good their dancers where, no one could beat him at his game.
Thanks to him, Amayenge Asoza received worldwide attention from World of Music, Arts and Dance Music Festival (WOMAD) in London to Asia and the Americas, which, at the time, used to celebrate the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance.
In 1996, Amayenge travelled to Whidbey Island, WA, where the band was enthusiastically received by audiences across the Pacific Northwest.
Chali died on May 30, 2003, but the band continued with Fraser Chilembo as their leader.
Later, Chris Chali’s widow took over and Chanda performed with the group for a while before he retired from music.
After leaving the Amayenge, Chanda featured in a number of television commercials, with the most common being the ‘Yokosa’ candle, which aired on television.
Paddy Blues brought back all those memories as Chanda shared the stage with the group that had earned him global fame.
Chanda’s astonishing confidence as a dancer captivated the audience that night.
As usual, he was energetic and just having him on state made the atmosphere at the club electric.
The few minutes he danced on stage seemed to transform him into the youthful muscle bound dancer that captivated crowds and drove women in audiences crazy.
The former Kalindula dance icon expressed gratitude to Amayenge Asoza for letting him perform with them.
The dancer, who had moved on to become Mazhandu Family Bus Services inspector narrated how he saw Amayenge grow from a city-to-city performing outfit to a successful musical group whose fame grew in and beyond Zambia.
He said since his illustrious days when he performed alongside the likes of Chris Chali, Darius Mwelwa, Maliki Mulemi, Dave Mwape and
Peter Lungu, he had appreciated Asoza for giving him an opportunity to work with them.
“I would not be where I am had it not been for Amayenge,” he said.
Songs like Ba Chanda Mwapondola Bana Mukushana reigned on the chilly night with Alice Chali, Kadogo and Obert leading the pack, shortly after some Soukous song and dance performed by Dominic ‘Tolo’ Mwamba.
The ‘evergreen’ Amayenge was in its usual top form.
That song, in particular, spoke of Chanda’s ability to charm women to the point where they would forget about their chores at home and only think about watching the pint sized man live in concert as though his dance was hypnotic.
He was such a critical member of Amayenge Asoza that Chris even referred to him as Chanda Mayenge, the surname being a derivative of the band name Amayenge.
Mwapondola Bana Mukushana may be one of the many hit songs associated with Chanda ‘Beu’, but when he took to the dance floor, cameras flashed and the womenfolk simply wanted to have a closer glimpse of him.
It was like the old times when women literally stepped over each other to catch a glimpse of the ‘muscleman’ doing what he was good at on stage, usually with a painted face and a cloth tied around his head.
Chanda did not just tell the story of how close he had grown to
Amayenge, but he broke down narrating that story much to the surprise of a dumbfounded audience which might not have fully appreciated the ex-dancer’s emotional attachment to his former band.
The evening, Chanda told the whole world that nothing would separate him from his beloved band, the Amayenge.
It took a while before the former Amayenge member regained composure to carry on with events of the evening.
However, this was not an evening for tears. Chanda had to forget his emotions and join the dancing ensemble in unleashing a mix of the new and old but kalindula tracks at Paddy Blues Sports Café!
The outfit’s repertoire of songs included the scintillating Olile Olile, Natangwanyika, Amusonekela, Dailesi and Ba Helena.
Few people knew that was to be Chanda’s farewell performance not only to beloved band Amayenge Asoza, but also to the music scene.
Sadly, a few weeks after this exciting performance, Chanda ‘Beu’ Kaoma, passed away on Friday last week at the University Teaching
Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka after a short illness.
He left behind a wife, four children and four grand children.
“We won’t forget the dance you put up that night during the commemoration of the International Day of Monuments and Sites NHCC (National Heritage Conservation Commission) hosted. It was the last ‘Beu’ dance you did that night which I witnessed and I was reminded of yesteryears when you were with the Chris Chali’s Amayenge Cultural Ensemble.
“God knows why you had to part this earth so soon. Sorry big man for your untimely death,” wrote Maxwell Zulu on Facebook.
Chanda, 53, will be remembered as having been an anchorman of one of the most prolific musical groups in the country.