Zambian Acapella: `African Culture, Christian Message' Young Men Bring Unique Music to 1st Baptist Church

By Fenning, Esther Talbot | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Zambian Acapella: `African Culture, Christian Message' Young Men Bring Unique Music to 1st Baptist Church


Fenning, Esther Talbot, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The Zambian Acapella had an audience of teen-agers swaying and nodding to the pulsating beat of African music this week in a concert at Kirkwood High School. The vocal group is using its rich baritone voices, drums and shakers, and a bit of stand-up comedy, to bring the music and culture of Africa to schools and churches in the St. Louis area.

The 10 young men ages 18 to 26 are from Lusaka, Zambia, in south-central Africa. They have toured the United States from coast to coast for the past four years in an effort to raise money for programs, supplies and classrooms for schools in Zambia. More than 1,000 children are being educated because of the money they've raised.

Their vibrant personalities have won over audiences not only in public schools, universities and churches but in such high-caliber venues as the Dallas Symphony, Opryland, the United Nations and the Apollo Theater in New York. The Zambian Acapella has also performed for audiences in England, Russia, Canada and other countries. Seven Zambian tribes are represented in the group. Their repertoire of 500 songs range from African folk music, such as Thulalila Lele, to Handel's "Messiah." St. Charles area music lovers can catch the Zambian Acapella at the 10:30 a.m. service Sunday at First Baptist Church, 3533 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, St. Peters. Admission is free but but a love offering will be taken. The Rev. Allen Lewis, First Baptist music minister, heard the group perform at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans in June. He des cribed its style as similar to music from the Paul Simon album recorded in collaboration with African musicians a few years ago. "What makes these young men unique is that they combine their own African culture with a Christian message," Lewis said. "They grew up in a Christian school where they learned English. They have an unusual way of wooing a crowd and attract many people who don't normally go to church but who are culturally diverse." Godfrey Tembo, 26, is the oldest member of the group. He has been with Zambian Acapella for eight years. Tembo comes from the eastern section of Zambia, about 300 miles from Zambia's capital city of Lusaka. His family worked a small farm. After his mother died 20 years ago and his father left the family, Tembo was forced to quit school. He eventually moved to Lasaka to look for work and there he met the Zambian Acapella at their Baptist church. Tembo told his young audience in Kirkwood that in Zambia a student must take a test to enter eighth grade and another for ninth grade and so on. …

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