Accomplished roots reggae musician, composer and singer
Accomplished musician, composer and singer, Larry Maluma is a unique and enduring voice in both the Australian and Zambian music scenes. Born and bred in Zambia, he performed with a number of high profile bands there, and had just embarked on a solo career when he relocated to Australia in 1985. Without doubt, his career has been long and tough, having left Zambia just as he was about to reach star status and starting over again far from home.
Larry sings in English and his native languages, including Nyanja, Bemba and Tonga – adopting styles that he blends to create his unique brand of African Roots Reggae music. He records with some of the finest musicians in Australia, many of whom are regarded as Australia’s leading session musicians. Their individual and collective brilliance respectively assures a diverse sound that encompasses complex African rhythms, Roots reggae and luscious jazz funk horns. The resulting unique sound has put his songs at the top of the Zambian charts.
Larry’s 2009 album, Tusekelele (Let’s Celebrate) was hailed as one of the most impressive albums of the year and one of the most admirable albums to be associated with African music. To date, Maluma has released 12 albums and more than 15 music videos, which have aired on ABC TV’s, Rage, SBS, Channel 9 and many other TV and radio shows across Australia, including Triple J, 3RRR, PBS FM, RTR-FM, and in other countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Australian perspective of African music
Since arriving in Australia, Larry has broadened the Australian perspective of African music. A recognised and popular music star in his native Zambia, where he was recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Larry is a major contributor to the African roots and reggae scene in Australia. He has headlined festivals such as Apollo Bay Music Festival, Bellingen Global Carnival and the Globe to Globe World Music Festival. He was also a special guest for Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers and Angelique Kidjo, to name just a few.
In January 2004, Larry was asked by members of MMM International to assist with the Zambian project ‘The African Dream’, a project that assists underprivileged children in Zambia. He donated songs chosen from five of his albums, which were released on the compilation, Larry Maluma – A Good Cause, showcasing a range of songs sung in Bemba and Nyanja, two of Zambia’s 72 languages. Half of the proceeds from the sale of the CD were channeled into ‘The African Dream’.
‘Punzisani Aana (Teach the Children)’, a popular song taken from his 1993 album, Man & Woman, has been used in a couple of documentaries on children’s and adult’s blindness. In May 2020, ‘Punzisani Aana’ was reproduced and performed by young, high-profile Zambian artists and children to commemorate Africa Freedom Day. Two videos were released, supported by the European Union and highlighting the diversity and cultural richness of the African continent’s languages and humanity. ‘Punzisani Aana’ was chosen for its emphasis on the importance of educating the children and expressing love for Africa.
Larry’s albums include Confusion (1987), Hallelujah (1991), Man & Woman (1993), Motion (1996), Nuff is Enough (1997), Roots & Herbs (2000), Makani Angu (My Story) (2005), Tusekelele (Let’s Celebrate) (2009), Bakaindi (Ancestors) (2011), and Ndakondwa (I’m Happy) (2014). His 12th album, Ulemu (Respect): The Lost Zambian Tapes ’84–’85, is his debut recording, released internationally in 2015, over 30 years after it was first recorded in Zambia. Some of his songs recorded in the early ‘90s have also featured on compilation albums in the USA and UK.
In 2015, Larry Maluma was honoured with a Life Time Achievement Award from the Born N Bred Music Video Awards hosted by the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). Since then, he’s been quietly composing music for his new album, drawing inspiration from the joys and challenges life offers.
Larry has just released his latest EP, Bush Doctor / Traditional Healer, a sophisticated weave of sounds and genres that take his music to a whole new level … just a taste of more to come. He’s currently recording a new album.
LARRY MALUMA – JUSTICE- 2016
In 2016, after a few years of not being actively creative in composing, I decided to follow my instincts and get back to writing songs again. I put myself in writing mode all year and decided to use an acoustic guitar this time around, to create and compose whatever ideas came into my head. In my home studio, I’d turn on the recording equipment and start playing and singing whatever my heart expressed, until I came up with something that felt good to me. I took my guitar with me on long road trips along the south coast, east coast, central coast, gold coast and sunshine coast of Australia, and stopped whenever I felt the need to rest. I would usually find a nice quiet spot on the beach, press the ‘record’ button on my phone and start playing to the sea, putting ideas down. When I opened my mouth to sing, some social, political or personal feelings would just come out, without realising the strength and significance of those words until much later. As soon as I returned from travels, I would go straight to my home studio and try to refine some of the ideas, until I had enough material for an album or two.
In 2017, I decided to bring the material I had composed to life. I gathered around my good friends-in-arms, I call “The A Team”, together – a bunch of great musicians I have known for a very long time, and booked studio time at Woodstock studio to put down a bunch of very solid grooves. I also decided that there was no rush – I was going to take my time recording this one. A couple of months later, I got my sisters-in-arms to sing backing vocals on the tracks.
In 2018, instinctively I decided to take our children to my homeland, Zambia, see their grandmother without realising that would be the first and last time to see her. She hadn’t been feeling well, but it was a fantastic reunion trip for our family. My head took in a lot of things. When I missed my flight back to Australia, I decided to spend my time at the farm with my mum before my return to Australia a month later.
In 2019, I headed back to Woodstock studio to complete at least an album’s worth of tracks from the material that was there. As I was recording vocals, what I had been feeling, observing and experiencing politically, socially and personally was coming out through my lyrics. Without paying too much attention to some of what I was really singing about (as I usually just enjoy doing what I do), strong themes around justice, peace and unity had also evolved. Towards the end of 2019, with my instincts kicking in as usual, I added a couple of lines to the track, “Bush Doctor/Traditional Healer” which starts with, “Every day and every night people are getting sick, some are dying” – without knowing what was around the corner in terms of a worldwide pandemic, widespread injustices and even my personal health challenges.
In 2020, a few months after finishing recording the vocals, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement were headlines all over the world. Soon we were all experiencing the fallout, and sadly, my mum died in Zambia. Due to lockdown, I couldn’t travel to my homeland for the funeral, and no one knew when it was going to end. The pandemic had prolonged the release of this album, so I decided to release an EP single for “Bush Doctor/Traditional Healer” towards the end of that time.
By mid 2021, the prophetic words I’d written in “Bush Doctor/Traditional Healer” came to be highlighted when I was diagnosed with a bowel tumour, requiring major surgery as soon as possible. The local Covid-lockdown ended in October, and while I’m still on extended confinement at home to rest and fully recover from the operation, I’m very relieved to report that I’m now in the clear! Special thanks to the doctors and nurses for saving my life and caring for me in hospital, my family and friends for thinking about me and wishing me a quick recovery, my brothers, Dorian West and Robin Mai for lending me your ears, and all the craftsmen and women I call my brothers and sisters-in-arms for bringing my music to life. Much appreciated. Cheers!
As you can see, I have been cooking this dish for a few years and I think it’s now time to serve. Happy to say, this recording is fully charged with positive energy. Hope you enjoy it!
Melbourne, November 2021