Mutharika – The Musician


Everyone knows President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika as the head of the Malawi state, an accomplished economist, ‘chitsulo cha njanji’ and ‘Mose wa Lero’ a title that is musically ironic.
I want to discuss President Mutharika the musician. I guess because this is one facet of the head of state that has been left out or not noticed enough.
To start with, his talents came to the fore during the 2004 campaign, when politically; music also decided the pace of the campaign when musician Lucious Banda came on the scene with his hit single ‘Yellow’.
Then, Mutharika would sing out former Zambian President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’s ‘Tiyende Pamodzi ndi Mtima Umodzi’ verses which never captivated anyone musically.
But having gained the incumbency, eventually, and formed his Democratic Progressive Party after ditching the United Democratic Front it looks like he got a totally new mettle for his musical capabilities.
Now this ‘Tiyende Pamodzi’ mantra had a different swirl to it, now that it was being sung by the first citizen who gave it an executive appeal. And when one of his Members of Parliament, gifted music producer and singer Joseph Tembo, [of course the name is now preceded by the title Honourable] took ‘the executive singing toils’ into the studios and manipulated it with his wizardry, what came out is a hit.
To show how outstanding the track has become one has just to measure how it is still terrorising the beer halls as well as the dance floors.
With the President’s musical involvement, one would not have been surprised to see how many old and new artists went home composing one song after the other.
By the way, this is not the first time that a State House resident has shown interest in actual singing.
Remember ‘Ise tikusewa mbuto za lusungu Tizam’mwemwetera Pa kuvilonga?’ [We who plant seeds of grace shall rejoice during harvest time’]. This was the first Head of State Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda doing a hymn single handedly. Then, there were times when he would start a song to Guide his mbumba sing him what he wanted.
Kamuzu I had also too much influence some coming out from duty demand and veneration as was the case with the MBC Band and The Chichiri Queens which came up with ‘Zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda’ while others composed songs in order to be noticed or because other musicians had composed songs of Kamuzu Banda so failure to do likewise would be deemed disobedience of highest order.
There was not much when President Bakili Muluzi came to power. He was not into singing and perhaps this was the reason he was finding fault with the way his successor sang ‘Tiyende Pamodzi’.
Muluzi was wondering, how one person [in this case Bingu] would start singing a song then turn into a backing vocalist at the same time? For whatever this was trying to communicate his contention was more of an arts critic than a political riposte for old scores if you look at it from a different perspective.
You would have expected Muluzi to as well critique a song Lucious Banda jointly performed with his wife Shanil for the sake of his jokes of course.
Then besides the actual musical involvement of the three Heads of state there was the involvement of artists different musical artists in their rallies.
I remember the late Davis Kapito who was a UDF bigwig wanted to use the fame his half brother Evison Matafale had built with his songs to bolster UDF standing in its political rallies and things got out of hand in Kasungu when the issue of reward led the two to separate paths.
Then there was a political declaration from Muluzi that he will reward musician Joseph Nkasa who was famous at that time by buying him a car. The two do not see each other eye to eye.
But with the change of occupant on the mantle of power it looks like Nkasa whose song ‘Mose wa Lero’ disputably helped augment Bingu’s political profile is not even complaining about rewards as he did when he sang ‘Anamva’ which challenged Muluzi to live by his words and buy him a car he pledged.
The issue here is now that the current resident of Sanjika has shown interest in music to an extent of breaking a step or two when his daughter hosted ‘Ethel Mutharika Memorial Show’ where local and international artist showcased their talent and sharing a stage with Nkasa during the DPP victory celebrations, can’t the music industry take advantage of this? Rewards.
There is a need of nurturing the musical talent that is seen in all the corners of the country by establishing a musical academy and this can be possible if musicians joined hands and approached Mutharika the musician.

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About Gregory Gondwe - Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started practising journalism in 1993. Until March 31, 2012 he was regional editor and bureau chief for Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). Gregory is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma of Journalism and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He is also columnist for Malawi's first and oldest weekly, Malawi News. He can be contacted on gregorygondwe@gmail.com.
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