Swithin Haangala’s other side as Musician!

Filed under: Entertainment,Latest News |

Adapted from Friday Ballads by Ballad Mutale Zulu
(Published on Saturday 19th March 2022)

Friday 18th March 2022 Zambia put to rest its Fourth Republican President Rupiah Bwezani Banda.

As the country was in this period of mourning, it lost one of its most talented and dedicated teacher, journalist, broadcaster, devout Catholic and musician in Swithin Hangaala at 12:30 Zambian time in India where he had gone to seek medical attention.

I am certain that the broadcasting side of Swithin Hangaala is well know and might be the focus of many of his tributes. There will be some who will focus on his Christian faith. He was one of the pioneers of the Catholic Support Group “Our Catholic Faith-a Journey in Christ.

What may not be well-known is that Swithin was an accomplished and talented musician in his own right. He used this talent to the fullest when he was an advertiser with Young and Rubicam. He sang a number of memorable commercials but it is hard to access any of them with our terrible culture to archive our artistic history.

Swithin, in musical terms, was in the shadow of his older Brother Edwin Hangaala, popularly known as Smokey Hangaala. In fact, he was the bass player for Smokey Hangaala’s band and when he jammed with other bands he inspired the bass playing career of Zimbabwean popular musician Kelly Rusike.

Kelly Rusike wrote in February 2022 on his Facebook Page “This gentleman Swithin Haangala is an amazing human being that I’ve known since my teens. Let me take you back… Way back, I was growing up in Kitwe, Zambia performing as a teen, (still in school) with my elder brothers, The Rusike Brothers. I and my twin Colin were the youngest in the family group, no doubt excited to be on stage. I was not playing bass at the time but surprisingly was a singer along with my brothers.

One of my fondest memories was the beginning of the shows when the backing band known as The Master Key, featuring Swithin Haangala on bass, the late Dave Kaunda “DK” on lead guitar, the late Andy Nyirenda on drums and the late Sylvester “Sly” Nkandu on rythym guitar, would warm the stage with instrumental and vocal tunes… covers and originals.

And the bassist at the time, my big bro Swithin Haangala was a marvel to watch. He held the groove with such precision and ease! This made me fall in love with the bass guitar.

I would sit by the side of the stage and watch Mr Haangala do his thing with an undeniable passion… As time went on, I would pick up the acoustic guitar and rehearse bass lines on the 4 top strings and try and emulate Mr Haangala. I was convinced I would never ever get to his standard of playing. He was just too good on the 4-string bass guitar! He was and STILL is my first and biggest bass inspiration! To be brutally honest, he is the reason I started playing bass and will continue to do so as long as I live…! I hope I’m doing him proud.

To this day we are still in touch frequently and he’s my big brother from another mother… Always there to advise me and support me… Mr Swithin Haangala, I salute you! the journey continues…”

I do not remember when I first met Swithin in person. To me he was always in my life during his two phases as a broadcaster, in the early seventies and in the eighties when he left his teaching service to pursue the second phase of broadcasting. My interaction with him was more intense when he worked at Young and Rubicam with my elder sister Beatrice Zulu Siwila. I found him to be like an elder brother, a mentor.

In fact, I always called him “ba Pati Bangu”, My elder brother in Tonga. He was always patient and always had time to explain everything under the sun to me. His training and experience as a teacher and headmaster always came through. I can say definitely I learned a great deal from him, including how to be a decent human being

About ten years ago we got together with veteran musician Rikki Ilikonga, musician Tinta Chona and a few others to discuss the effort of trying to preserve Zambia popular music. Swithin was our interim chairperson.

Our idea was to form a foundation, not for profit, that will be devoted to archiving Zambian popular music. To make it available to current and future generations. I am still devoted to this cause and I hope that this country sees his dream come to fruition.
Swithin born on 7th September 1955 was a renaissance man. He went to Zambia’s school for the truly academically brilliant, David Kaunda Technical School, was a trained teacher and headmaster but was also a truly gifted broadcaster, businessman and musician.


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