Zambian singer Chembo has been making waves with her voice, songwriting, and strong personality. Even though it's difficult to put her in a box, she's focused all the same. She wants to be the best in the music game, and she knows exactly how she's going to do it.
Tell us a little bit more about Chembo?
Well, I'm a singer songwriter and a trained actress (I have a performing Arts degree). I was born in Zambia, but most of my "growing up" has been in Wales in the UK. I recently came home to smash it with my music [laughs]. I love fashion, not like the average person, but like, I know A LOT about the industry for no real reason [laughs]. And I love change, and I wish Zambia had a beach for long walks [laughs].
Listening to your the songs you got out right now, Abena Mavis, and Tightrope, you've got a Amel Larrieux type of sound. How would you describe your music?
It’s super hard to for me to describe, as I feel people expect a specific genre to be listed, but it's just a fusion of my influences mixed with my own individual spice. The one thing that is universal about my songs is the rawness and honesty in my lyricism. It's basically Soul music regardless of the genre I go for in the song or project.
So what is your ultimate goal in the music industry?
My ultimate goal is to be reach and connect with as many people as possible, and that's a lot of people [laughs]. Also to tour worldwide, you know, huge festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella and Lake of Stars. I want to be one of the most successful musicians in the world. Period.
You’re song, "Tightrope", is a celebration of individuality and talks about the struggles of maintaining authenticity in the music industry. How are you dealing with that?
"Tightrope" is still one my favorite songs I've ever written because the message is so relatable on so many levels.
Currently, I would say I'm dealing with it quite well. The more radio stations I visit the more I realize how much people want to put me in a box, and I get it that's just how people try to understand the “out of the ordinary”, so it's ok. I'm still in the process of really penetrating the industry, “pause”, so I guess so far so good I'm still me so I'm happy.
Why aren't there more artists that are more comfortable with creating new sounds and experimenting?
Honestly, I'm not really sure, ‘cause I feel being yourself is truly the most freeing thing in the world and the most logical. But that's just how entertainment works worldwide I guess. People get scared to try being themselves and would rather be a lesser version of something that's already worked like a Beyoncé or Alicia Keys or even Sade. Artists sometimes I feel can also be money driven and the formulaic approach is seen to be the one that bring money or attention. I'll stick to being Chembo though, it's much easier
In Africa, a lot of the music is recycled from what drops in the west. A few buck the trend and manage to be very successful in their own lane with lasting careers. Do you think there's a correlation between individuality and lasting success in the music business?
OMG Absolutely!! Some of my favorite musicians in the world were the first of their kind during their time and it pays to be first in any industry. I would say it really does. There's longevity in being unique. Look at Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Prince, etc, the first of their kind and their music will still be relevant in 50 years’ time. For sure, when you prove you are the only one of your kind, people buy into that, I think.
Your latest song, "Abena Mavis" is about women who have relationships with married men. It's not a new topic, but of late it's becoming such a part of our society (in Zambia), that the wives of the married men expect their husbands to cheat. Why is this OK, and how can we change this?
"Abena Mavis" is such a common experience in Zambian society like for sure and I wrote with that in mind because we are familiar with it. And of course it's not okay for women to expect that, especially when we look at what marriage is supposed to stand for. The problem is how our culture looks at women. In our culture we are kind of disposable and replaceable, there are even Proverbs that favor the infidelity of men as opposed to that of women.
I feel women simply refusing to stay in marriages where they aren't appreciated will slowly change how men behave. Men are the ones capable of changing this culture by simply doing to their women what they promise when they say their I-do’s.
Which artists would you like to work with?
This is so tough for me! I love so many artists in the world. BUT…I would love to work with writers like James Fauntleroy, The-Dream, Chris Martin from Coldplay, and [ummm] Charlie Wilson, Eva Alordiah, Exile (that would be fun). Also KANYE WEST I would literally cry tears working with him [laughs]. Real tears of joy. OMG, Jill Scottt too, gosh! So, so, many artists.
Prince recently passed away. If someone was to ask you to sing a Prince song on stage, which song would you absolutely smash?
First of all I, I’m still super like saddened by his passing coz he was on my list of performers I would love to see live. At least I still have Charlie Wilson.
One of my favorite songs is Little Red Corvette. I don't know if I would do it anywhere close to like what he did, but I know I would still kill it! Prince's debut album is in my top-ten all time faves. Forever Prince!!
What's the next single going to be, and do you have a full length album dropping soon?
You know, I'm actually currently still deciding on my next single. I have a hunch it will be a song I wrote about my mum, but we'll see.
And most def’! I am gonna be releasing my debut EP Next month (fingers crossed), and it's gonna be easy listen, acoustic jazzy vibe wise too. I'm all about the vibe.