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International Award Winning Zambian Rapper Calls For More Support At Home

posted 31 Jan 2014, 05:58 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 Jan 2014, 05:59 ]

Zambian rap music star, and winner of the 2012 UK's BEFTA award Ruff Kaida decries the lack of support and recognition from the market at home. He says piracy is the biggest challenge for artists in Zambia, who already struggle to find funding to produce music.

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (REUTERS) - Zambian rapper, Ruff Kaida's career in music started in 2000 when he was discovered by a local producer who helped him record his first single, a hit that went straight to the top of regional charts.

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Formerly known as Ruff Kid, he started rapping when he was a young boy growing up in Zambia's Copperbelt.

He has just finished recording his fourth 14-track album, which features the hit song "Am Alive".

"I released this album called 'The Naked Truth', so far so good, the album has been nominated for the ZMA (Zambia Music Awards) as the best hip hop album, and I am hoping to win and I think it deserves it," he said.

His confidence however, has in the past taken some hits. After winning a BEFTA (Black Entertainment, Film, Fashion, Television and Arts) award in 2012, for best international act, Ruff Kaida thought his career would only get bigger.

He beat heavyweights like Nigerian singer-songwriter Dbanj, and South African songbird, Zahara.

But when he got back from the awards he realised, his music had won much appreciation internationally but not at home.

Ruff Kaida says he was disappointed at the lack of support for his music and the award which he believes was not just for him but for his country.

"Like what happened before last year I won the BEFTA award and it was a very big achievement for, just not me, but even for Zambia because I beat the likes of Dbanj and Zahara. It was not really really easy, but I managed it so I felt like we needed the support from Zambians, where like when I came from the BEFTA awards I expected a lot of people to turn up and to really appreciate because that achievement was big for this country, but its different the way it happens to soccer players, they really appreciate them and that's what we need to put Zambian music on the map," he said.

While the taste for local music in Zambia has grown over the years, artists have over the years had to compete for airtime with international hits preferred by many young listeners.

The government recently began seriously implementing a law binding radio stations to air 75 percent local content as per the Broadcasting Services Act.

Having more locally produced content on the radio has helped the music industry grow, analysts say.

Music stores that once carried mostly foreign artists now sell out some of the top local musicians albums weeks after release. CD's retail for between 10 and 15 US dollars.

"I remember sometime back when we used to go to places, we would go to places and find that three quarters of the music that was being played was too western, but now, everything is becoming Zambian. I think we are doing a good job," saidJoseph Chilese.

Ruff Kaida's latest album, although popular among a young fan base has not been without controversy.

His album cover shows the rapper with nothing on except for a banner reading 'naked truth'.

"Looking at the cover of his album, naked something, I don't know. That is sending out a wrong message to the kids out there because you know as a celebrity, as an artist, people look up to people like that, so I think such people should really come up, even if rap music is good in its own way, as long as they are sending out the right message to society," said Chungu Chungu, a Lusaka resident.

In an interview with local publication, Lusaka Star, the rapper said his latest album tells the truth about his life and that he wanted to lay himself bare for his fans to understand that.

About his name change from Ruff Kid to Ruff Kaida, he told the paper his former self was talented but unappreciated and is now dead.

One thing Ruff Kaida says the industry needs more than anything is more investment and a stronger stand against piracy.

Zambia's music industry, like many across Africa suffer the curse of piracy more so than others around the world. Cheap copies of African music are sold freely on the streets in many countries and legislation to protect copyright is weak or poorly enforced.

"I think we need people with money to pump in, we need endorsements, we need sponsors and then we need also the power from the government, that word from the government for this piracy to die because that's what is eating our work," he said.

Ruff Kaida says the late America rap artist 2Pac is one of his greatest influences.