That dark day: In memory of legendary Musician Smokey Haangala

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Late Smokey Hangala

Late Smokey Haangala

Early on Tuesday morning on 16th August 1988, the sound of a car hooter woke me up outside my house. It was followed by a loud knock at my bedroom window and a man shouting out my name, writes Swithin Haangala

I looked at the clock. It was 3:45am. A feeling of dread swept through me as I recognized the voice. It was my brother in law. We had been together at the hospital at my eldest brother’s bedside till midnight before he dropped me home promising to pick me up early the next day, but definitely not this early. He was married to my young sister who was a nurse and they lived near the hospital.

I don’t remember dressing up, going to open the front door, the drive to the hospital. All I remember is seeing the lifeless body of my eldest brother lying there still, silent. I could see the nurses’ tears in their eyes as they hugged my sister. There was wailing around the room. I looked at my immediate elder brother and he turned away. He was in tears. Just a few hours ago, we had told Smokey that we were going to the UTH club and he jokingly asked that we bring him a beer – or maybe he wasn’t. But there he was – lifeless. I did not cry. I could not shed a tear. I stood there completely numb.

Time stood still and then some one nudged me to follow the body as they wheeled it to the mortuary.

Mortuary! The word kept ringing in my head as we wheeled the trolley. I could hear the sounds from the floor as the trolley went over the uneven cement surface. It was like some sort of rhythm. Clang, clang, clang -till it slowed down like a well drilled orchestra. The body was lifted into a compartment and the door closed with a whoosh. It reminded me of the choir master swishing his baton, bringing the ode to its grand finale.

The type writer had typed its last full stop. The music had been played. The last note had been strummed.

Smokey Haangala, the poet, writer, composer and musician had played his last show.

I know there are lots of us who have experienced this. Not once, not twice, but several times. Some more tragic, others less so, but death is death and the pain always the same. To those who have experienced the pain of losing siblings, parents, children and loved ones, know that what you feel, a lot of others do too. It may not be something that may console us, but knowing that there is some one out there who knows the pain, makes it a little more bearable.



9 Responses to That dark day: In memory of legendary Musician Smokey Haangala

  1. This piece is good but it is too short. Many people, like me, don’t know much about Smokey, which is a shame. He was a good singer, maybe even great singer when you compare to what we have on the Zambian music scene today but he is not well known. Imagine I only know one song(Bala Ng’ombe)by him!You could honor your relative by releasing a compilation of his music,and maybe even writing his biography. That would be really good.

    August 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    • I agree with you as music educators we have gone to sleep.There is no research and documentation of our great musicians in the country.There is so much we do not know about our rich music because our research culture as a country is bad.Imagine we know more of foreign composers even dating in the years when the world was still young.Composers like Bach,Mozart,Handel are all there in books and music schools teach about them.It is a challenge to all of us teaching music to wake up and take this challenge to even write books which should be taught in our music schools.I did something on Smokey but not very comprehensive.I hope to finish it when I complete my masteral studies in music which i’m currently doing, and probably work on other musicians too.Thanks for the challenge.

      August 18, 2014 at 2:52 am

      • Good to know that somebody has actually taken steps to do something about the void in education on Zambian music.Please let us know when the piece is complete. I can’t wait. Best wishes.

        August 18, 2014 at 9:43 am

  2. The man was a good pionist. I don’t know who can march him. Its true, a compilation of his music would do us good. It can actaully sell more than today’s singers. Compile the music please.

    Paul Mushindo University
    August 17, 2014 at 7:01 am

  3. Ba Swithin kaipipisha ka article namwebo. I wanted to read more about Smokey’s books, songs and plenty else. He was one of Zambia’s greats

    Ba Ntamba Lukuta
    August 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm

  4. Great writer, Great poet, Great musician, Great son of our soil. You are gone but you will live indefinitely in the minds of all who knew you, us who read about and listen to your music, and those yet to know about you and your works.

    Rest in eternal peace.

    Martin Amukusana
    August 18, 2014 at 7:17 am

  5. Swithin. alusikalibala wena! ukulaba Smokey. Awe awe. We loved his music.Did he hev any children?.Please find a gud producer you produce his music for celebrating his life.If you go to that woman called “Families are nations” FAN founder. she is very gud at community development.usandule.Mbonyi ya Siloko, London.

    August 18, 2014 at 8:16 am

  6. Swithin, this is a good article although quiet too short for those who were not there that time. I remember Smokey very well. I was very young then, but followed his music through the bar which was close to our house in Chimwimwemwe, Kapata area in Chipata. There was a duke box which was always playing very loud music. Sometimes I hated the noise from the bar because it disturbed my studies, but when it was Smokey’s music, I always enjoyed it. His book, – the back eye? was also good and exciting.

    August 18, 2014 at 9:48 am

  7. Great article. I was watching a documentary on the Stonehenge prehistoric monument of Wiltshire, England on BBC and I was surprised that the music that was playing in the background was the of the Great Witch. Was wondering that there must be someone who has the rights of such music being played free of charge on BBC probably without a charge. It was a good feeling to get to hear such lovely music on BBC and yet we do not have compilations of great musicians like Smokey Haangala, etc and we cannot even buy it off the shelf in Zambia.

    August 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

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