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Alick Nkhata

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Biography

The traditional music of Zambia was preserved through the efforts of Alick Nkhata. The son of a Tonga father and a Bembe mother, Nkhata devoted his life to producing and recording traditional Zambian music. Stationed in Burma during World War II, he began his musical career shortly after returning to Zambia as a field recording engineer for ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in 1946. Nkhata went on to work with the Central African Broadcasting System (CABS), where he oversaw the recording of traditional music and rose to the position of deputy director of broadcasting and director of Zambian cultural services. Nkhata made his presence felt as a musician as well. His late-'40s quartet, which evolved into the larger Lusaka Radio Band, performed regularly on Zambian radio during the 1950s. He continued to balance his radio and music careers until 1974 when he "retired" to his farm to devote his attention to singing and writing new tunes. Four years later, he fell victim to a gunshot fired by South Rhodesian forces during a cross-border raid against Zimbabwean freedom fighters. An album of Nkhata's best known songs, Shalapo and Other Love Songs: Original Zambian Hits From the 1950s, was released in 1991. A 17-tune compilation, the album was described, by Etna, as "soothing vocal harmonies and prominent guitar or piano accompaniment." ~ Craig Harris

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