I was only ten when the 90’s ended but there are certain sights and sounds from that era that are still alive, finely etched on my mind. If the 80’s was the decade that made us, then the 90’s was the last great decade. Here are the sights and sounds that I can clearly remember.
TELEVISION: The Cosby’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air were hit family shows I grew up watching. They were fan favourites coz they were fun, had a moral at the end and there was no use of profanities. Then there was MacGyver on Saturdays, every kid wanted to be him. But the real action heroes in my childhood were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme, almost every action movie that time featured one these guys. Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise also catapulted him into tough guy status and don’t forget the toughest of them all, Chuck Norris. A good number of these shows and movies were from the 80’s but achieved cult status in the 90’s. Also we didn’t have access to the latest stuff so made the best of what we had. Another popular 90’s film star was Eddie Murphy, one movie I could never get tired of watching remember is Coming to America. The barbershop scene where he drops countless f-bombs is still memorable lol. The national broadcaster, ZNBC was in love Murphy coz every other holiday it would screen Another 48 Hours and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. I also remember the Little Rascals, Home Alone and Mr. Bean. My most beloved kid’s shows were She-Ra which would be televised every Tuesday at about 17 hrs (I think). At the end of each She-Ra episode there was always an interesting moral to the story given by Loo-Kee but you’d first have to spot him behind the trees and bushes. Sport Billy always had an interesting item to pull from his bag. I can also remember Voltron, Thunderbirds and Transformers coz of all the cool robot auto tech and stuff. Roger Ramjet was from the ‘60’s but its opening theme had the same tune as the Yankee Doodle song I learnt in kindergarten. ZNBC wasn’t so bad if you consider the Littles, Ducktales and Fat Albert and his posse. Then there were two family oriented puppet shows: Sesame Street which was educative and The Muppet Show which was more of a comedy variety show. Till this day I watch Tom and Jerry but the most outstanding one of them all is the Lion King, part of it is coz it’s set in Africa. And the other part is coz it’s got all the ingredients to be a Shakespearean classic: love, betrayal and revenge. I remember watching it on VHS at a friend’s place for the first time, I can still hear Simba’s scream countered by ominous high pitched strings as Mufasa falls to his death. It’s no wonder its number two on my list of favourite movies of all time. In sport, I remember the sadness in the neighbourhood when Zambia lost to Nigeria in the 1994 final of Africa Cup of Nations. I remember crying when Brazil lost three nil to France in Football world Cup final of 1998, I hated Zidane back then hehe. WWF had us re-enacting the fights after hours of watching recorded matches. I loved the Undertaker, Sean Michaels and Stone Cold. From, current affairs I remember watching televised court proceeding from the O.J Simpsons murder trial though it would be years later before I understood it.
Back then it was just about the sound, the melody for me. I can remember hearing lots of rhumba from around. Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Lucky Dube jams would be blasting on stereos in the neighbourhood or on a friend’s dad’s record player. Then there was always some Lionel Richie playing somewhere, his Ballerina Girl video was a regular on ZNBC. Kenny G’s infections saxophone tunes were standard fillers before the start of transmission and we’d be staring at those multi coloured colour screen savers waiting for a news bulletin all while listening one of his tunes. We would also be treated to some Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duets around Christmas time every year. I guess it worked coz I can still remember their Christmas To Remember video to this day. Other popular musical features in my childhood were Michael Jackson (and his thrilling music videos) and Celine Dion who was already musical royalty and her 1997 Titanic soundtrack, My Heart Will Go On only cemented her place in popular music history. CC’s Music Spotlight was a music video show that featured a lot of a lot of African videos and I can still remember Angelique Kidjo’s breakout hit Agolo, Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry’s trilingual duet Seven Seconds and Boom Shaka’s first ever single It’s About Time. While on the local scene Kalindula legends P.K Chishala and Paul Ngozi were a mainstay. But Rap and RnB ruled the 90’s, R. Kelly was real good back then, Aaliyah could sing and dance. Un-break My Heart by Toni Braxton was real popular in those days, another fan favourite was Richard Marx’s 1989 global chart topper Right Here Waiting For You. I can remember two Boys to Men videos, On Bended Knee and End of the Road. Diana King’s Shy Guy from the Bad Boys soundtrack was arguably one of the biggest hits of ‘95, I remember it playing at a birthday party that year. Another popular mid 90’s track was Mark Morrison’s Return of the Mack. Then there was that Macarena song everyone danced to but had no idea what the words were. Missing You by Puff Daddy and Coolio’s See You When You Get There were nostalgic rap ballads you’d hear in homes, cars and public transport too. But it was Tupac voice seemed to blast out of every speaker. Of course I didn’t know what he was talking about but even at that age I could tell whatever it was he was compelling and of course he was infamous for freely cursing. It wasn’t until my teens that I fell in love with his music but three tracks I can remember from back then are Changes, California love and All Eyez On Me. I also remember seeing a couple of Snoop and Dre videos.
Before owning video game consoles, we’d go to play them in Kabwata market for a fee. That meant being gone for hours and getting in trouble with the parents. I guess they didn’t want us exposed to ‘violence’ coz the video game shops in the market almost always had fighting games on offer, the most popular being Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. To us it was all fun and games even if the rooms hosting the games were small, stuffy and without much furniture. Only people with controllers would be seated. And when you did not have money, you would sneak in there just to watch. But it was an amazing feeling sitting in that chair, controller in hand, controlling what was on screen. The height of this control came when we could do this from the comfort of home, jamming a friend’s Ending Man console. When playing any two player game, the winner would keep the controller (aka pad) and the loser would surrender it to the next ‘amateur’. I remember my excitement playing F1 Race on Sega Saturn clone for the first time. I constantly found myself moving with the pad to avoid crashing the car hehe. Skeet shooting and Duck Hunt, might have been very basic but were entertaining and quite popular too. Within days of my brother and I my having our own console, I remember the cursor buttons on the controller being faulty and loose after tapping them so much trying execute a move. Another popular game on those 8 bit machines was soccer. Though it was slow, hard to control and had pathetic sounds, it was super fun and I did not mind coz it was the best thing we back then. I remember the countless spent hours on TV at home or a friend’s tapping away, continuing even after the adapter was heating up, playing as many games as we could on those counterfeit 9999 in 1 cartridges. It was heartbreak every time the parents came in and told us to turn the console off cause it was time to ‘listen to the news’. My favourite game on these consoles was Super Mario, don’t know what it was about that Italian plumber but it was magnetic all the same. The only downside about it was that I was never good enough to rescue Princess Peach kikiki. Then there was Nintendo’s hand held Game Boy and the Brick Game. If you didn’t own one like me, you had to borrow from a friend for some hours at least. Tetris was the Brick Games default game, while Game Boy had fancy cartridges you would slip onto it and play what you wanted. I remember spending hours playing a space shooting game once.
Today everything has evolve, everything is finer, more compact and just a click away but I still take time to romanticize days gone by. And it’s these wistful thoughts that capture the sights and sounds of that era when I was a kid: the 90’s