Reggae Caught in a Confluence of Emotions

Late Gift Fumulani’s ten-track album ‘Mphamvu yake Mulungu’ is one such musical artefact that is more revealing. It is a very personal statement of one man whose mind was still searching for a right spiritual sanctuary.

It is an interface of intercession mingled in a psycho-religious dilemma, spiritual declaration interlocked with an expression of love devotion. It is also a three-way communication, one to self, the other to the listener while the last, which is almost dominant in all the tracks to God.

Whatever the case, by all Malawian reggae standards, this was Gift Fumulani at his best, regardless of whatever faculty of distinguishing sounds one holds. The album transcends all the borders that divide the kind of music genres that tickle the aperture of one’s ear.

It is a piece of art that one rarely comes up with in a lifetime. Pity Fumulani never lived to continue pulling all the tricks from the hat. Ironically, in one track ‘Oyipa’ he presages, “I will sing for the last time and perhaps the last mile and like the last trumpet”.

However, allow me to depart from the praise and stay with the fact that the dilemma in Gift’s albums is characteristic of all musicians in the country who are also reggae music players or spot dreadlocks and chant Jah Rastafarie in their music.

Other quarters have labelled this Fumulani album in question as gospel, however, going by all the lyrics in the songs of the album Fumulani failed to say yes or no to this question.

Listening to the music, which if thrown into Jamaican music chart where reggae was born and still continues to be genetically modified in their studios, Fumulani could still find a place among the counted.

This, in other words, is purely to say that Fumulani’s album is purely reggae, which is known as conscious vibes because of its religious construct. One question that stands out high when listening to this album is whether Fumulani is a Rasta or just a Christian.

An opening of the kind of internal war that is raging within his psyche is crystal clear in the track ‘Mphavu yake Mlungu’ where he sings of someone from far away place who wants to be worshiped but Fumulani challenges him saying his wishes are impossible.

In the same track, he says he will sing the song of his defeat. “They will force my people to enter his congregation but God’s power will destroy you with fire”.

In addition, this element of destruction of fire seems to be disturbing Fumulani so much that it is present in most of tracks.

If anyone was in doubt if Fumulani is a Rasta or not ‘Uyankhe Wekha’ is characteristically a Rasta song. This is what in Reggae music styles is known as a ‘Nyaghabingi Chant’ where there is dominance of drum beating.

Anybody who liked his first album could in no way ignore ‘Mphamvu yake Mulungu’ and if they had doubts over his capabilities, this album vindicated him and gave them a headache to differentiate between him and his cousins of the Black Missionaries.

One clear common thing, between the Fumulanis, thus Gift and his Black Missionaries cousins, is the internal war that is raging within them of whether they can depend on Rasta life or Christianity as their source of salvation, and therefore project this into their music.

Black Missionaries founder late Evison Matafale and torchbearer thereafter, late Msamude Fumulani never doubted a minute where they stood on their religious inclinations.

However, looking at Anjiru and Chizondi Fumulani, you cannot help it, but realise that they are not sure what direction they want to take lyrically while they seem grounded with the reggae tune. What perhaps could be more problematic is that they have another artiste extraordinaire, the guitar wizard himself Peter Amidu who does not hide his Rasta faith.

This means anytime the two Fumulani remnants decide to purge out reggae as their identical genre then they will also be parting ways with Amidu.

Interestingly, whenever dreadlocked Sally Nyundo has released an album, he uses the Black Missionaries for promotion. Sally is a sworn reggae artist but is not sure if he is a Rasta or not for real; he acknowledges something to this effect in his latest DVD.

Hax Momba? All he tries to do in all the music that he plays is to give you the annoyance of trying to tell whether he is trying to mimic Jamaican reggae grandfather Burning Spear or the fallen megastar late Joseph Hills who in the later days of his life adopted the name Culture that was previously, their reggae group name.

Momba will however, try to run away from declaring if he is Rasta or not, the same would be said of Lucious Banda who could even have the temerity to chant some Jah Rastafarie in his songs.

What does this tell us? It is about imitating without enough knowledge and following a genre that means nothing to passion.


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