The Zambian artist returns with a new album As Above, So Below, her latest work designed to show the artist’s connection with Zambia.
Having been raised in vastly different environments, Zambian artist Sampa the Great sought to reconnect with her birthplace in As Above, So Below. Born in Zambia, the artist later moved to Botswana where she grew up before moving to Australia in her adulthood. In her latest work, Sampa decided to pay homage to zamrock, a musical fusion genre that emerged in Zambia during the 1970s. “I thought it was fitting to pay homage to those who came before me and merge past, present and future through music and imagery; passing the baton from one generation to the next,” she said.
Her recently released “Never Forget”, featuring Chef 187, Tio Nason and Mwanjé, perfectly exemplifies this artistic choice. Sung both in Bemba and in English, it was also the focus of a music video. “Who’s the origin, straight from the soul and then redistributed? Who did?”, Sampa asks rhetorically before her dancing scene is interspersed with archival footage of Zamrock pioneer Paul Ngozi, Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, and iconic zamrock band WITCH. If the late former Zambian president is featured, it is because he was instrumental in the making of zamrock. Being himself a musician, he decreed in 1964 that at least 95% of music on the radio had to be of Zambian origin. Greatly influenced by Western psychedelic rock music embodied by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Zambian musicians started incorporating it to their traditional sounds. It also gave rise to the kalindula sound favoured by Paul Ngozi. “I discovered Zamrock later in my life and was surprised that this music was known globally, yet not fully celebrated and acknowledged in Zambia today”, the artist said.
In the album, Sampa the Great also delves into her relationship to femininity as an African woman to create her Eve’s persona: “the highest version of Sampa that speaks to all facets of her womanhood”. It might be the object of the single “Lane”, also part of the LP, she recorded with Denzel Curry and interpreted in an awe-inspiring video full of sublime, brutalist visuals. In it, Sampa’s clear-cut voice compliments Denzel Curry’s energised flow : “that’s what Lane is about, breaking all those boxes, creating new lanes”, Sampa explains.
As Above, So Below out September 9th via Loma Vista.
Listen to “Never Forget” in our Pan African Rap playlist.