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Chilu Lemba is a twenty-five-year veteran in the advertising, radio, television and
communication industries. In 1997, at age 22 he was appointed Acting Station Manager at
Zambia’s first privately-owned radio station, Radio Phoenix which he had joined two years
prior as a radio presenter.
Today, Lemba is one of the continents top voice actors having lent his voice to campaigns
for brands such as Samsung, FIFA, ESPN on Supersport and numerous broadcasters.
A passion for sharing knowledge saw him establish a regional radio conference called the
Lusaka Radio Summit which is now sponsored by Zambia’s largest indigenous bank
Zanaco. The conference is now known as the Zanaco Lusaka Radio Summit. Chilu has
released several music albums and authored a memoir titled Finding My Voice which is
available on paperback, as an e-book and audiobook. He is also the podcast host of two
podcasts namely Rebuilding and The VO Plug as well as the co-host of Key Africans
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - @ChiluLemba
STANDARD: In creating your own lane in history, what did you do to keep yourself motivated?
CHILU: That’s a great question and I think the key part of the question is exactly that, having your own lane. I get very uncomfortable when I see comments online that speak to becoming the next Mr or Miss so and so. Even on my social media platforms, I get guys commenting saying they want to be the next Chilu Lemba. Yes, I get the sentiment but at the end of the day we are all unique and because we all have a limited time on the planet, we have to do what we can to make our time count. So, I’ve found that especially now, a big part of what I do revolves around my personal legacy which if you closely observe my projects will see that I’m preserving pockets of my life in song, podcasts and books and, I’m also helping with empowerment efforts. With this, I mean practically helping people when I can to activate or pursue their dreams, but obviously within reason. To answer your question around motivation specifically, I think my source of motivation over time evolves and that’s not a bad thing. At one point in my life, it was about becoming rich and very famous. It then became about shining the light of Jesus in all I do. At a different point, it was to put Zambia on the map. Nowadays I think it’s a lot more simplified. I have responsibilities towards my family and I get up to do the best I can to make their lives solid. Outside of that, I’m future-focused.
STANDARD: In all the professions you could have chosen, why radio and entertainment?
CHILU: Being an entertainer is something that I found I was good at from a young age. I was a rapper, actor and singer and so there are hints sprinkled across my life which point to a future in the arts, entertainment and communications industries. For instance, when I was around 10 years old I was a member of an award-winning acting group. Later when I was in high school, I received the annual music award. So, even though my grades at school were good and I’d begun romanticizing about becoming a Diplomat, I landed where I guess I’d be able to flourish, have fun, make a living and an impact.
STANDARD: After starting your career in voice acting entertainment, did you anticipate it going as far as it has gone currently?
CHILU: Not at all. Life’s journey is like you’re walking up flights of stairs and arriving at different levels. It’s tough to sometimes see the end with a glance. So, in my case, one of my early goals was to be a rapper with an album before being a radio presenter became a goal worth pursuing. The radio job opened up the opportunity to do voiceovers for radio commercials. Being in that institution also opened the door at a young age to get a management position at the station. Each level you get to in short, allows you to have an understanding of the next level.
STANDARD: What influenced the urge to share knowledge with the masses?
CHILU: I tend to think a small part of it is in my DNA but who knows really. I say this because my family, both on my paternal and maternal sides, has many teachers and lecturers. I enjoy seeing knowledge passed on and getting involved myself when I can, to teach people so that they get better and more efficient in utilizing their gifts. Sometimes it’s out of sheer frustration.
STANDARD: The Lusaka Radio Summit, please share with us your purpose for the creation of this grand event?
CHILU: The idea came about early in 2009 while I was driving around my home city of Lusaka in Zambia during a short break from my base in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tuning to various stations while on the move, I frequently heard presenters making what I knew were errors during their broadcasts. I however figured they weren’t aware of the mistakes, and that’s because I’d previously been in the same shoes as far as my own career. It took me about seven or eight years in radio, before one of my mentors in Johannesburg at a station where I briefly worked, pointed those out to me during my induction training. So, the initial idea for the Lusaka Radio Summit was to have a space where some of these lessons could be shared. The first Summit was held late in 2009 at the Martin Luther King Centre in Lusaka and was hosted by a company that I co-own called Ten 27 Communications. It currently has a headline sponsor and so it’s now known as The Zanaco Lusaka Radio Summit. It’s a special day for those in radio to be afforded an opportunity to network, let loose, share ideas as well as learn from experts who are either based in Zambia or, who fly in from other countries to share what's new in the fields of programming, production, promotions and marketing.
STANDARD: What are some of the important takeaways many of the participants will gain from their experience at the Summit?
CHILU: Well, the people that speak at the Summit come from varied backgrounds and thus share their expertise in line with what they do. We’ve been honored to have celebrity level presenters such as Melanie Bala, Claire Mawisa, Gaetano Kagwa and Masechaba Khumalo who you could Google to get an idea of their influence and reach, attending and sharing from their experiences from being on-air personalities with a spotlight on them. We’ve also had CEOs of media groups sharing their unique perspectives, app developers who are involved in tech for radio, music programmers, sound and imaging producers and so on. It’s kind of a buffet and by the end of each event, people leave fulfilled and yearning for more.
STANDARD: Lastly, every person symbolizes something and every Legacy leaves a message; when everything is said and done, what would your Legacy message leave and symbolize?
CHILU: I hope it can revolve around provoking individuals whose lives I’ve touched to never be satisfied with what others perceive to be their accomplishments. I’ve had hardships in my life, many highlighted in my memoir and I’ve used those as fuel I guess to help propel me to what’s next. To borrow from Hennessy’s pay-off line; Never stop, never settle.
K's Kouch Interview with Chilu Lemba