OVER the years, he has grown from that teeny-bopper who once entertained his own father’s guests when they were having some sundown, into one of the most formidable and illustrious music moguls of his generation.
His early musical stints with his peers simply involved sneaking into any venue wherever people got the funk out of their faces.
Well, that was 30 years ago!
Today, Kenny Wailer, whose real name is Kennedy Mwamba, thrives in discovering and nurturing untapped talent and enriching their lives.
Through his Dreads Entertainment and Recording Studio situated in Lusaka’s Kaunda Square Stage 2, Ken Wailer has become something of a father-figure in the music industry.
“The beginning was quite crazy,” he lamented. “I mean, I had to perform before my father, and sometimes in the company of his guests, the one thing I grew up doing as a youngster,” Kenny Wailer said.
For his father, the late Goodson Mwamba (Warrant Officer Class II in the Zambia Army), there was no better “disc jockey” to entertain him than his own son.
From those backyard swings, where the young Ken established himself as a master-mixer of music, he quickly learnt the tricks of mixing music, which exposed him to a variety of global classics.
From the music of such local greats as Emmanuel Mulemena, The Tinkles, Teddy Chilambe and the WITCH to Jimmy Cliff, Miriam Makeba and Charley Pride, Ken Wailer became that prodigy of a kid in the musical game.
“Many times, I would sneak out to various clubs dotted around Lusaka for some teen-time shows, although I also found Timmy Mvula’s Time for Music show quite inspiring,” said Ken Wailer.
From the Time for Music clips on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) television, Ken Wailer was prompted to have a feel of the ‘real’ live shows.
And it was during his free time while at Munali Boys High School that the young Ken would hustle himself into such joints as the Star Market to witness some kalindula thrills.
But earlier, he recounted his square-biz stints at teen-time shows hosted by the likes of Yola 2000, PVC, 7-11, CLOUDS and Bantu Discos.
“These disco outfits undoubtedly gave birth to some of the most illustrious disc jockeys who possessed some professionalism and class,” Ken Wailer recalled.
The likes of Eddie ‘Groove’ Musunsa, Oliver ‘Sly’ Kapota, Hanif ‘Emperor Pepe’ Adams and Henry ‘King Yola’ Mandona, were all products of these outfits.
In addition to these, arguably some of the finest disco outfits of the 80s, Ken Wailer never missed an episode of the television musical series, Soul Train.
Don Cornelius’ Soul Train, which was beamed on ZNBC TV, hosted some of the funkiest disco outfits such as Shalamar, Kool and the Gang, Whispers and Skyy that would inspire Ken Wailer.
But back home Ken, who also attended his primary education at Regiment school, Star Market was simply the “Apollo Theatre” of Zambia.
Every weekend, Star Market, which was situated on Chachacha Road behind Plaza 3 Cinema, played host to such musical greats as Shalawambe, Amayenge and the Air Power bands.
“Those days, other than the Lotus Inn on Cairo Road, all roads in Lusaka led to Star Market where we relished some live music shows,” recollected Ken Wailer, who is married, and has four children.
His son, Tafazwa, aged three, already plays drums at Arising Glory Church of Christ.
But while the buzz was centred on Star Market and Lotus Inn, Ken Wailer also caught up with up-and-coming musical kids.
Having relocated to Kaunda Square Stage 1 after joining the National Airports Corporation (NAC) in 1990, he was to establish himself in the neighbourhood as another music-maker.
With a miniature musical home system, Ken Wailer began jamming at various corporate and private functions around Lusaka, the grooves which exposed him greatly.
“These many functions gave birth to my current outfit, Dreads Entertainment, which went on to perform at such high profile functions as the Zambia Army annual balls,” Ken Wailer said.
In 1999, he joined hands with the Velvet Promotions, which birthed Innocent ‘Velvet Voice’ Kabwe and hosted the launch of Nasty D’s Nyanjalize Bambalize album at Chrismar Hotel.
In later years, Ken Wailer would jam with the likes of James ‘Chamanyazi’ Ngoma, Chela (CJ) Katwishi, Innocent ‘Smooth Ik’ Kalaluka and the No Parking Band for some “nasty” show-down!
He was also the mastermind of late P-Jay’s early recordings, which he now hopes to re-record with the help of his (P-Jay’s) brother, Benjamin ‘The Future’.
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