World Kaleidoscope Presents Mathew Tembo and the Afro Routes
Mathew Tembo is an award-winning Afro-Pop musician of the highest caliber hailing from Zambia in Southern Africa. He is an important ambassador of Zambian music culture both in Zambia, where he is from, and abroad.
Tembo has toured and recorded all over the world. While touring in Europe, he produced hits including “Nelar” and “Kumalya Ndimu,” both from his second album, “Save My Soul,” a reggae album which was recorded in the Netherlands in 2001. He was awarded best Afro-fusion for the song, “Nandunge,” from “Anthem,” his first album to feature Zambian traditional instruments, at the 2008 Born and Bred Awards in Zambia.
Originally a reggae singer, he began playing Afro-Pop when he had an eye-opening experience touring Europe in 2004. When he was doing a presentation about the music he played then at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the professors from the conservatory asked him why he played reggae and not African music when he was from Africa. From that experience, a whole new world of musical possibilities came to life for him. On returning home that same year, he began a self-taught exploration of traditional African instruments such as the silimba (a home made marimba), which he made himself, kalimba (mbira/thumb piano), and kalumbu (a one-stringed instrument). Incorporating the use of these instruments into his original compositions, Mathew sings mostly in Chinsenga (language of Nsenga people) and Chichewa (music of the Chewa people) and weaves syncopation, repetition, polyrhythm and call-and-response into his music.
Mathew’s first musical experiences began in 1994 when he sang in a band called Afro-Vision. He studied Music Education at Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce in Zambia, majoring in classical piano. He later studied for a Bachelors in Primary Education with a bias in Music at the University of Zambia. An active musician while in college, he played in popular reggae bands in Zambia, including the Bantu Roots, Waves Musical Youths, and Genesis and in his own band which later came to be called the Dark Black Band. Tembo then went on to study World Music Performance at the renowned School of Music at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL where he graduated in May 2013. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh in the US.
He has headlined festivals such as Millpond 2014 in Bishop, CA, 2014 Umoja Festival in Pittsburgh, PA and the Accacia Festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February 2015. He has shared stages with big acts such as the legendary Oliver Mtukuzi of Zimbabwe, Mulatu Astatke and Mohammed Ahmed both of Ethiopia, 3MA, Michael Rose, Steven Marley, Pato Banton, the Skatalites, Tosh 1, Fyah Wyah, Third World and Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia. His influences include Thomas Mapfumo and Burning Spear. The 2009 Songlines review by Martin Sinnock referred to Mathew as a worthy successor of both the reggae superstar Lucky Dube and the creator of Chimurenga music, Thomas Mapfumo.