Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zambian Brass Band


A few times when we were in Livingstone we saw a brass band marching down the street, and we always wondered about that unusual sight. Richard Chanter of Chanters Lodge posted an article explaining the origin of the band. Joanne Noble who blogs from Sun International wrote the original piece.

"I am sure that when you think of African music, you will think of the African drum and possibly the marimba, like a xylophone. It may surprise you then to know that one of the favorite bands in Livingstone is a brass band. When Zambia was Northern Rhodesia they did not have an army; they had a police force. It was known as the Barotse Native Police. The rank and file of the police were men from the Lozi tribe and the officers were expatriates who had come to Zambia to work.

As soon as the police force was formed the officers thought that it would be a great idea to have a brass band; they decided to find out if their men could learn to play. So they brought in trumpets and tubas, drums and trombones and they gave them to their men. The constables could neither read nor write and certainly did not have a clue about crochets and quavers. This did not matter, though. Within a short time they learned to play their strange instruments and the Barotse Police Band was formed. Every Thursday evening the band played in the center of town in Barotse Gardens for the entertainment of the townsfolk. It was thought to be one of the best bands in the whole of southern Africa.

The other day as I was going through town I found the army brass band marching towards the Barotse Gardens, now known as Mukuni Park. The members of the Catholic Church were holding a fete in Mukuni Park and the army band had come to join in the fun and to make it more festive. The people in town all stood to watch as the band marched past and the children jumped up and down, they were so excited.

As I watched them go by I thought of those days now a hundred years ago. Things were so different then, so much has changed. Northern Rhodesia is now Zambia; the bandsmen wear long trousers and a cap instead of shorts and a fez. But some things have not changed. We still have a brilliant brass band in Livingstone and they continue to play for the enjoyment of us all."

No comments: