Unmarked Grave of Mc Ewen Manda

The 30th June of this year, was business as usual to most people involved in music. The Musicians Association of Malawi minded its business save for its zone call point person in the name of Lanz Nkhata. The media that deals with music saw nothing wrong with this day.
However, Malawi lost on this day, a very young man Mc Ewen Manda, whose many nicknames bestowed on him by his fans; speak volumes of how mesmerised musical lovers as well as artists themselves were with his unmatched talent on a drum set.
He answered to nicknames like ‘Shambumbu’, ‘Mr. Brown’ and ‘Bongo Tchaka’ and despised all ridicule by responding with his drum beating antics.
At his 28, McEwen Manda, who was a drummer in the band The Body, Mind and Soul’ led by Dave Luhanga fondly known in showbiz cycles as ‘The Street Rat’, achieved so much. So much, that achievements of other artists that started long before him pales into triviality.
The drumming pen, which is closer to fellows on drum set as well as on percussion than it is to anyone else playing any other musical instrument, wishes to pay tribute to the talented ‘Shambumbu’.
Street Rat says he first met the young Manda at St. Peters Primary School and by providence; they were sitting on the same desk, which made them notorious to teachers because every time a teacher taking charge of their classroom moved an inch away from it, they would turn the room into a musical entertainment haven.
As both would do later in the years, the young man would turn the desks into drum sets while the rat would vocalise along the thumping of the desks to produce music that would enthuse fellow pupils at the expense of their studies. The two parted ways in pursuant of better education only to meet again as members of Mzuzu’s Ghetto Souls in 2000.
While there, they participated in the music crossroads two times including in 2002 when they emerged regional champions before participating in the defunct Kuchekuche Music Competition in 2003 where they also won regional finals but tumbled at national finals.
Interestingly, Street Rat says at the Ghetto Souls he discovered that the soul moves music and while anybody else settled for anything they could lay their hands on when they disbanded, he clung to the soul, which he took to the music crossroads of 2004 under the name of ‘Souls of Ghetto’.
They kept their triumphant pulsation all the way but it went dim at the inter-regional festival at the French Cultural. This led to the disbandment of the group again, and all the artists scattered including McEwen who remained in Blantyre where he played with a number of musical groups including the Chosen Few.
Street Rat says he preserved the soul and brought it back to Mzuzu with which he set up a percussion Band with saxophones guitars etc, and with it they emerged the best acoustic band.
It must be said that McEwen left Blantyre and returned to Mzuzu where he followed the dictates of his weakness and drowned his soul into liquor and this forced the Street Rat to rescue him by taking him back into the band in 2006…
Now the band’s name was Body Mind and Soul mark the ‘soul’… in the name of the bands. The same year they joined Music Crossroads where they co-triumphed at national level with Alleluya II and went for the inter-regional in Zimbabwe where the Body, Mind and Soul won.
The prize was to tour Europe, the band had to undergo a yearlong preparation, and indeed, they departed in June of 2008 and toured 8 European countries that included Spain, Holland, Austria, Croatia, Belgium, UK, Ireland and Germany.
McEwen did very good, he was so petit in stature but had his own touch and finesse when put on a drum set and on the tour he left many a mouths agape. However, tragically, he was killed on 30th June close to Mzuzu stadium ironically the very place he had performed and sent many a souls spellbound.
A vehicle hit him and the maturing talent was nipped in the bud. Why he went unnoticed is the question I have always asked.
Was it because he played in a band that has so huge a name in Europe but so looked down upon in the country? Just a few weeks ago, Malawi hosted her annual fixture, musical crossroads. If you check in all the newspapers that wrote about the bands that performed there, you will not find the name Body, Mind and Soul that McEwen helped to formulate.
The question however, is not about The Body Mind and Soul. The question is on our artists resting place. I will never tire referring to the hero Michael Sauka whose widow pleaded that at least she wished someone had built a tomb for her fallen husband.
The unnoticed death of McEwen Manda is not an isolated case, many artists that have entertained us in their lives, and by Malawian standards a noble profession, considering that they gain nothing in terms of resources, should in the least be recognised and have their tombs have motifs that are recognizably heroic.
Feedback: drummingpen@columinist.com


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