Kenyatta Hill, the True Musical Son


When you listen to the album, ‘Live On: Tribute to Culture’ by the son of the legendary Jamaican reggae outfit’s front man Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill you realise how a true musical son he is to his father.
I really do not know if his situation can be compared to the other sons that took over from their fathers, like the Black Missionaries back home, for example, but in the case of Kenyatta Hill one would really be tempted to believe what is written on the website called http://www.fastlaneintl.com/khill_live_on.htm that his career began the day his father’s ended.
Kenyatta’s dad, Joseph, who was the front man and songwriter for the Jamaican vocal trio, Culture. He collapsed and died while on a 2006 tour of Europe. The website notes that to the amazement of promoters, fans and critics alike, Kenyatta stepped onstage and delivered electrifying performances time and again – nineteen shows in all – until the tour was complete. And this was unheard of in any genre of music at any time, it states.
“Kenyatta gave of himself so totally – as his father had for so many years – that the two seemed to become one, the eerily similar voices and the vibes igniting the critics and yielding a new reggae mantra ‘magic, not tragic!’” the website reports.
As if what he displayed with the remaining shows of his father was not enough, at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, at the memorial concert for Joseph, the website states that Kenyatta’s performance with Culture was the highlight in the star-studded night and garnered him the rousing applause of the hard-to-please Kingston reggae audience. It further notes that Kenyatta went on to front Culture in a series of performances in the US, Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, again leaving audiences amazed and delighted.
The coming on the scene by the young Hill is said to be influenced by elements of dancehall grounded in the roots tradition and motivated to carry on his father’s work. Kenyatta set to writing, finishing songs that Joseph had started and creating new music of his own.
“On his poignant debut single, “Daddy”, (Tafari Records) backed by a masterful roster of musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser, and produced by Lynford “Fatta” Marshall, he confronted the emotional pain and uncertainty he felt after the loss of his father. He cried while he wrote, just as audiences in Europe had cried while he sang,” the website states.
I am getting all that the website wrote because it truly expresses what I wanted to say about Kenyatta having listened to his album this week. The website marks ‘Pass the Torch’ as the complete CD having “a collector’s item feel” which was released in 2007 to long-time Culture fans and critics who have embraced the son, named after Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya.
“With its very lovely and high level vibe Kenyatta Hill’s first CD prompted one long-time Culture fan to proclaim, ‘Culture is ALIVE’,” states the website matter-of-factly.
The website says indeed Culture, featuring Kenyatta, continues to share the wisdom of Joseph’s conscious reggae, overlaid with Kenyatta’s own lively and youthful musical vision. Kenyatta toured in support of ‘Pass the Torch’ with a number of festival appearances throughout 2009 as well as a highly successful US tour with Beres Hammond in 2009 and 2010.
It was after these tours that in 2011 he released ‘Live On’, a highly-acclaimed tribute to the music of Joseph Hill and Culture with Kenyatta performing fresh renditions of some of their classic compositions. 2011 also saw Kenyatta Hill on tour with a hot new band and expands his musical horizons beyond his formidable roots.
Of course, the father is always the father, but listening to ‘Live On’ one cannot help it but realise that indeed the father, Joseph Hill, is still alive in the son, Kenyatta Hill.
One big question back home would then be: is it the same with the living sons? Is Robert Fumulani still alive in the persons of Anjiru and Chizondi?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nkasa’s musical Prostitution


Joseph Nkasa came on the musical scene in the late 90s with kind of music that never made any mark. It was until in the early to mid 2000 when he brought some ‘Wayenda wapenga’ toils that he got his first substantive recognition.

When he materialized again with an album that had tracks like ‘Zosayina-sayina’ the acceptance of lyrical packed songs was overwhelming that apart from huge sales in 2003 he got over K1m in Mechanical, Public Performance and Broadcasting Royalties from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).

This was a huge amount of money at the time and it made him go bananas as he bought property including cars without thinking of how best to manage his resources.

By the time he got another payment in 2009 from Cosoma which was close to K600 thousand he had still not learnt a lesson on how best to manage resources.

To show that that his popularity has waned in this December 29, 2009 pay out, it was Lawrence Mbenjere who set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

At that time it looked historical that since the establishment Cosoma the K2, 523, 459.16 that Mbenjere got was the biggest money it has dished out to a single musician.

And at the same event, Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.

Nkasa’s hunt for money has taken him to many places including begging and even performing with Zembani Band. But all this never brought as much money as he wanted.

In between though, he almost hit gold when he started toying with politicians in earnest.

Copying Lucius Banda’s 2004 campaign song ‘Yellow’ he did a track for the President Bingu wa Mutharika called ‘Mose wa lero’ which helped lift his stature as a presidential candidate making Mutharika the first to win with an over 70 percent landslide victory.

Nkasa has always claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But with his show for political money, this now remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he was contesting for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably. 

After Chimunthu Banda he allegedly went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

In fact media reports indicate that Nkasa signed an MOU with Katsonga to produce a five-track album – among the tracks, ‘Kulira kwa a Mphawi’, ‘Wanunkha Malawi’, ‘Opani Yehova’ – at a cost of K1,074,000.00; five promotional jingles at K500,000 and hold 93 live performances to a tune of K5,580,000 coming to a total of K7, 154, 000. 

While the effectiveness of this project has not even materialised, Nkasa has now done a track for Joyce Banda whom he discredited in the other tracks where he is singing complete opposite to what he sang in the other tracks.

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she will be voted into power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.

It is therefore very difficult for Malawians to even believe in whatever messages his tracks contain, otherwise his message remains a mockery to voters. Imagine if one listens to both the Katsonga tracks and the JB song, would they really make a position based on Nkasa’s position?

No wonder Nkasa has not succeeded as a musician even when he attempted to establish his  Zosayina Band because he is into musical prostitution that knows no morals. With such dearth of any guiding principles looking into one’s career, one cannot prosper in any discipline.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sham Religious Choir Show


On paper it sounds good to have plenty artists playing on the same day, the same venue and coming one after the other… That has been the case the last two weekends where Zomba, Blantyre and Lilongwe witnessed a large turnout of both patrons and artists that include Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Favoured Martha, Kamuzu Singers, Great Angels Choir, The Marvellous Deeds, Ndirande Anglican voices, Peter Mlangeni, Limbani Simenti, Mlaka Maliro, the Mighty POV and Thocco Katimba.

This was however the show that was organised by The Great Angels Choir. The group has reported in the media that it had 850 patrons at Gymkhana Club in Zomba, 2500 at Robbins Park in Blantyre and 4,000 at ICA Marque in Lilongwe.

Every head parted ways with K1000 and this money needed to get its worth by way of tight performances from the artists.

I attended the Blantyre Show which was scheduled to run between 1 PM and 7PM, a six-hour marathon that was expected to excite the over 2500 patrons that jam-packed Robins Park.

One clear thing that I witnessed was that it was apparent that there was an overcrowding problem which caused no problem to the organisers whose only care was how much money they would be making by the end of the day.

It also provides answers on how much effort should be put when designing entertainment infrastructure. Robbins Park for example has air conditioners, but whether these are just for decoration or they are really there to serve the purpose only the owners can answer. But for me, I think my answer is for the former because I have never seen them functioning where they are required to do so. There was too much heat emitting from 2500 bodies, some diseased while others too young to be exposed to such a melting pot of what might turn out to be hazardous to their ‘green’ health.

The other challenge is that there were too many artists for so little time. Others like Ethel Kamwendo Banda gave the people raw deal. She sounded tired and out of place. While others literary played a single track with some extension that was meant to mean that they are doing something. Next time start from 7 Am to 7 PM, or just invite few artists.

The other challenge I discovered was lack of stage discipline. Not from the artists though, but from the patrons, some of whom were high on something from spiritual powers to powers of alcohol and banned substances even when this was a gospel show.

One would leap on stage and start performing with the artists. At first the rest of the patrons would feel they are part of the band before realisation dawning on them that these were just wayward patrons. Then everyone would be trying to join the stage and your guess of confusion that would emanate is as good as mine.

The other think I am reluctant to talk about is on the musical equipment, more so because they are owned by Mr. Entertainers himself. He does not take kindly when you talk about his instruments in a negative shade.

But for the sake of retaining quality I will take the risk of being flaked for differing with him again. Instruments are like human beings when it comes to getting tired. Unless he schools me more, there is no way instruments can play at its full capacity for six long gruelling hours without having to show some fatigue. If it is possible the main instruments that project quality output, especially mixers, is supposed to come with substitute ones. At around 5 to 6 PM when Ndirande Anglican was to start playing, the instruments had lost its sharpness and were sounding hoarse and tired. The performance had to be stopped briefly.

Then there is also need to consider adding microphones when groups like Great Angels or Ndirande Anglican Voices are performing. The situation where four people have to share a single microphone is mocking the patrons to say the least. More so when there is need for two leading vocalist to sing like in the case of The Great Angels, the other singers are literary reduced to dancers as they have no microphones to sing on. Otherwise the shows were great and exciting except for the little problems that turned to almost a sham.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Malawians Love Dance Music


Two weeks ago, on these very pages, I intimated on how inveigling Lawi’s 17-track album has proven to be. As I predicted, it has trail-blazed the local entertainment scene.

Lawi has been over generous. He has 17 tracks in one album. To me, it was being unnecessarily pretentious. Considering the slow soulful music in the album, I was meant to believe that people will really fall for them, but I know and I can now confidently say that Lawi over-compensated for his many well-thought out slow-tempo structured tracks by going a little bit faster in the track ‘Amawona Kuchedwa’.

At least this is what everyone is calling ‘the track’, I am not even sure if this is the title.

This is the track which has once again exposed Malawians’ musical nature which has an affinity for danceable music. The country’s proclivity for music that has to thump their innards and threaten to split their eardrums has made them fall for this track at the expense of more other tracks in the album. Their attraction to this track has blighted and eclipsed all those good ones, including the Country and Western piece, ‘Whistling Song’.

I am not sure what the fans are demanding from Lawi whenever he is performing live as I have not had time to patronise his shows. But one thing for sure, by the show of this track’s dominance, Malawians’ love for danceable music will remain ‘indeterminable’, for lack of a better description.

Mte Wambali Mkandawire, Peter Mawanga and Faith Musa at least have managed to come up with tracks that dwell on the attractive elements of musicality which is what breaks into the international market. These artists and others of their ilk have tried to dangle tracks that ooze class and ingenuity but have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

But bring them Moses Makawa, for example, whose albums are full of danceable music, they will have it shared from Nsanje to Chitipa, Nkhotakota to Mchinji in no time at all. Most of the radio stations will snap it up.

Audience reaction to music that our musicians come up with spoils their reasoning and creativity as they will try to come up with something that the people hanker for.

Such craving from the local audience has impelled our music industry to lack ambition; they only leap as far as their noses end just to buy fleeting popularity.

Without beating about the bush, Malawian audiences do not encourage our musicians to produce good music. They encourage noisy and danceable music stuff, sometimes mistaken for good music. The Malawi audiences measure the goodness of the local music by how much it can make them jump in the air to outdo each other in dancing antics.

Over the years I have asked what makes the audience glued to their seats and listen to artists such as Salif Keita with their souls being filled to the brim with satisfaction even when he is performing in a language that they cannot understand.

The answers have always been on the musicality that such music contains to begin with, and the knowledge of an artist of Keita’s competence who knows what is expected of them when performing to an audience that enjoy music whilst seated.

If Malawians continue to encourage artists to churn out only danceable music, we should not expect our musicians to break on the international scene any time soon.

Feedback:

        

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating Malawi music leaders


The Karonga-based Lusubiro Band has great youthful musical entertainers that proved their natural endowment and adapted musical understanding by winning last year’s Chibuku National Competition.  

But according to Prof. Chungja Agnes Kim, the brains behind the Lusubiro Music Centre, they do not want to train music entertainers but music leaders.

Understanding the Korean Music Queen speak at least I stat understanding that Malawi has been saved from the bottomless pit in as far as its lack of music destiny is concerned.  

Prof. Kim as the Director of the Lusubiro Music Centre says, unlike creating music entertainers, creating music leaders is the win-win scenario for Malawi because a music leader is someone who is able to use the language of music to change the world.

She says music softens the heart. It can stop wars. Music can help us sympathise with each other. Music can end poverty and injustice. Music is the language that God gave people to go beyond themselves. Music inspires in us noble feelings. Music humanises us. Music can save the world…it is the purest language of love, joy and peace.

She says it would have been easy to establish a music centre in big city like Lilongwe or Blantyre but she chose Karonga because she wants to give the poorest and remotest people of the country a chance to become the Lord’s ambassadors, just like Jesus chose the fishermen of Galilee to become his disciples. 

Listening to her story, one clearly understand that had all of us possessed a spirit like one she displays the local music industry would have been somewhere in terms of achievements and success.

She recalls that she was only eleven years old when she met Irish missionaries who encouraged her to learn to sing and play piano. It looked impossible, just as it might now for the youth of Karonga. The professor says she hails from a poor family and a poor country as in 1955 South Korea was just emerging from the Korean War and it was therefore very poor although it is now the 10th richest country in the world.

As a girl she says she realised her rich talent and that she was feeling the passion to become a musician and she followed it to an extent that when she was completing her secondary education she met a second group of missionaries from Germany who played a bigger role in her life. They made it possible for her to go to Germany and study music where she attained a Bachelors Degree and then later a Masters Degree in Vienna, Austria.

And to show her gratitude to the missionaries she established the Lusubiro Music Centre.

Why this is going to change the music terrain in Malawi is because she has love and passion to train music leaders for Malawi. She does this by giving them a chance to go outside the country to study music and become professional musicians.

She has already sent several young boys and girls to the Korean National University of Arts which she says is the best in Asia. She should know, she has taught music there for 15 years.

In October last year, Phillip Mwanjasi and Limbani Munthali, who were playing saxophone and trumpet in the Lusubiro band, were sent to the university where they will spend four years studying music under the Korean Government scholarship. For the next four years the Korean government will be spending K4m on each student per year.

Next time the Music Association of Malawi will be staging another of their ‘Mickey Mouse’ music awards they should not forget Prof. Chungja Agnes Kim.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lawi’s mellowness


 

Francis Phiri is a name that you will find in many countries in this part of Africa, including Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and across the length and breadth of Malawi.

 

But there is one Francis Phiri, also known as ‘Lawi’ in Malawi showbiz circles, who is proving to be not just a common Francis Phiri with his music that has made him stand out from the humdrum that has bedevilled the local music industry.

 

He came on the scene with music that had his creativity written all over it – ‘Amati Andikawe’ (2008) and ‘Satana Luma’ (2012). In an industry where others have tried and faltered, it is clear that unlike many who force themselves into music, Lawi was born a musician.

 

And now Lawi has released an album whose title track is called by his very showbiz name ‘Lawi’ and has demonstrated that he has come of age.

 

The arrangement of all the 17 tracks on the album speak volumes of how much patience he has with the rigorous process of recording which has eluded most of the music production on the market.

 

On Lawi the artist has given all those who appreciate good music beautiful tracks. He has also made sense of how and where he wants to take his music to. For instance, he composed one track about a girl-child and he convinced Plan Malawi to adopt it for their Girl-Child Programmes. To this extent, Plan Malawi facilitated his album launch at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe. 

 

Well, I have always lamented the hotchpotch stuff that our so-called musicians bring out of studios which when played it takes the intelligence of the baby to realise that it was just some spur-of-the-moment compositions.

 

Here Lawi has taken after the likes of Wambali Mkandawire and Evison Matafale whose lyrics leave your imagination flying about. He has potently filled his music with verses that can pass for any good piece of poetry which is supposed to be the case with good lyrics.

 

Mundiwerenge; Mundikhonze; Ndaza ngati buku lotsekula —

 

Ndaza ngati munthu wothodwa – Chonde munditule

 

Ndamangidwa maunyolo – Chonde mundidule

 

Machimo anga ndamizidwa – Chonde mundivuule

 

Then one big thing he has managed to do with his Lawi album is that he has made instruments complement each other to bring out beautiful sound.

 

There is also the question of originality as has been demonstrated ever since he came on the scene. To demonstrate that, Lawi has done a ‘Whistling Song’ which can pass any ‘Country and Western’ test. He has also tried a ‘Salif Keita’ with a track he calls ‘Ufulu’. This is just to prove that he is so talented he can try his hands on anything and get away with it.

 

‘Itananani Onse’ is one example of how he has weaved Chichewa and English to make one language of music such that if one does not know either Chichewa or English one would think this is just one language.

 

Lawi has been able to sing English tracks in English and not English in Chichewa as has been the case with most of our cartoons that masquerade as musicians.

 

Here is some music that can find its way on the international market because it has the universal musical language.

 

Feedback:   drummingpen@columnist.com

 

Mobile:          0882233220

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The best of 2013


When I said Skeffa Chimoto was the best artist in 2012 I had reasons that no one ever disputed. Even in the face of lack of releasing an album at that time, the backing explanation still made sense.
He happens to be the Best Drumming Pen Best Artist for 2013.
Given an opportunity to do it alone, however, I should confess that I was not going to settle for him. Nevertheless, since I write for readers, they have overwhelmingly told me Skeffa Chimoto was their best artist, his album Chikondi was tops and his track ‘Chinamuluma Chakuda’ was the most sought after.
Others argued that this would not make a fair reflection of what really happened in 2013 because Skeffa only released his album just 31 days before the end of the year and to say this was the best album would be a mockery.
Going by what numerous readers sent me this time round, there were just too many productions to pick from; The Black Missionaries released ‘Kuimba 9’, Anthony Makondetsa launched ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’, Lucius Banda issued ‘Time’ and Lawrence ‘Lulu’ Khwisa released ‘Ndakudziwa’.
These were the results according to you:
……………..
Best Album: Fuko Lokondedwa
Best Musician: Anthony Makondetsa
Best Song: Fire Time
……………..
Best Album: Ndakudziwa
Best Musician: Lulu
Best Song: Ndzalera
……………………
Best Album: Kuimba 9
Best Musician: The Black Missionaries
Best Song: I am not a failure
……………………………………
I got most of the artists above as the best for the year. One of those that felt Lulu was the best said it was very difficult to choose the best from ‘Mponyere’, ‘Ndzalera’ and Mtima Wakana’ because the tracks are just very good.
In fact since ‘Ndzalera’ video gets airplay on Zambian entertainment channel, Muvi TV, then this was the more reason Lulu had to be the best, this according to one reader.
The reason Skeffa was the Drumming Pen’s best 2012 musician was that he never relented in his approach to court quality in his performance and I would say the same for this year. This is a journey he started travelling 2011 and he has never showed any fatigue to give his patrons half-baked stuff.
Just like last year, this time round his stage work remained focused proving why those that love his energy-packed stage-exhibitions call him the ‘Jamming Machine’.
Skeffa continues to remain professional and set the right path for budding artists, unlike most of our musicians who are always topping the chart in all sorts of ugly things like boozing, womanising and unnecessary controversy.
So, like in 2012, in 2013 Skeffa continued to steer away from unnecessary tittle-tattle.
…………………………………………………………………………………………..
In 2013, when The Black Missionaries released their ‘Kuimba 9’, a debate ensued as some months before Anthony Makondetsa had done the 2013 album ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ and now what became very common within social gatherings was that people were trying to compare the toils in Black Missionaries album to those in Makondetsa’s works.
I then said in the year that dismissing such assertions as a mere cheap effort to compare apples to mangoes would be a hopeless effort to run away from reality.
Over the years I have been a critic of the Black Missionaries’ failure to toss away the template that founding leader Evison Matafale and his successor Musamude Fumulani created for Ma Blacks. But the year 2013 taught me something else.
Last time I wrote about Kuimba 8, upon its release almost three years ago I was of the view that this is the same old skin which was only bulged with new wine.
Kuimba 9 has taught me not to take it away from the boys. After the years that we interred the remains of Matafale and Musamude, seriously it will be utter jealousy to still claim they are reaping success because they are still riding on the fame of the fallen leading pioneers.
Because of this effort Kuimba 9 becomes The Best Drumming Pen’ 2013 Album.
2013 also proved that Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa is the most consistent artists Malawi has.
In the year I wrote: On the account of the contagious awe that his six previous albums have drawn out of many people, Makondetsa had in 2013 carved another piece of facet that became the most shining of his multi-faceted career with the release of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ – his seventh album.
Since his first album in 2000, Tisatengeke, the journey has been that of hope. In 2001, he released Kambelembele, 2003 saw him christening Maonekedwe as the third album followed two years later by another one, Mfakafaka. Two years later in 2007Ndilibe Mlandu tagged along by Mbumba ya Abraham in 2009.
The consistency is in the anthemic approach to his compositions.
The Best 2013 Drumming Pen Video Album is the 13th Album entitled: “Ethel Kamwendo Banda Live at Comesa Hall”; while the Best Drumming Pen 2013 Musical Revelation is Faith Mussa.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment