There was a time when legendary Wambali Mtebeti Mkandawire jokingly told a group of us that had he been playing reggae, no one around would have been his match.
Then I have heard artists like Tiwonge Hango saying they have to do a lot of groundwork in order to break the market for the kind of traditional music, which they play, while there seem to be a ready market for reggae to those that know how to do it well.
Why is it that reggae has managed to find room in the hearts of a many music lovers in the country?
When the youth that are middle age now were growing up, there seem to have been a proliferation of reggae music to an extent that those that had many a lyrics in their songbooks earned themselves respect.
One other aspect that also helped a lot at that time was the philosophy and positive teaching from reggae music, which to an extent helped or traumatised the duty of parenthood.
To an extent, music moulded the quality of education that was on offer then. Have you heard grandparents whining that their form four grand sons and daughters cannot stitch a sensible English sentence while at a Standard six level of that time our grandparents could advance an English debate that could carry the day.
The traumatising part with reggae, which I do not desire to dwell on today, is the question of ‘International Herb’ in the reggae music, which is encouragement to the smoking of Chamba.
Those that fell for it either succeeded with their studies or fell by the wayside, while others found themselves preaching senselessly along the streets while naked while the lucky ones found themselves at Zomba Mental Hospital, St. John of God Mental facility in Mzuzu or Bottom Hospital in Lilongwe.
Those that took the positive meaning out of the reggae music that was available then triumphed because they were good at the English language, which sometimes would be a barrier to all other subjects that the school was offering.
Reggae, like most music is transmitted alongside a lyrical content that needs full attention for anyone interested in message other than the accompanying instrumentation.
Take for example the track TRUST ME from the album of the same name by the late Joseph Hill who later in the days used to play under the name of Culture. Below are the lyrics of the song Trust me.
Reggae Music for a reason
You see you can play it under Jah season
I play reggae music in the middle of the street
Play reggae because it’s our beat
Play reggae music because it was ordered by the Messiah Marcus Garvey
Trust me, trust me, trust me
Why don’t you trust me, trust me, trust me
Allow politicians to fool you again
Allow a lawyer to plea your case
Allow the doctor to poison you
And even the minister to indoctrinate you
You trust the teacher to teach your children
Trust the mechanic to build your car
Trust the carpenter to build your house
And yet you don’t trust your brother at all
You don’t even trust yourself
Please be yourself
You trust the media to give you a news
And my simple words you do refuse
You don’t trust Rastafari
You won’t even listen to I and I and I
I stand up for the rights of every man
Just lonely as long as I can
We can win the victory
To fight on for humanity
Nine holes are in the human body
Seven of them are in your head
So why don’t you clean up your life
And try and live just like the Congo Natty Dread
One mother you’ve got
I must remind you
And you must respect her to the highest level I say man
Although the lyrics in this song cannot make you change your religious belief but it will at least give you a positive reason to fight for your cause.
In general in the song Hill who was of Rastafarian life had problems with people who could not trust him as a musician with his counsel but could listen to politicians, lawyers, doctors etc.
If you look at how reggae spread throughout the country at that time you could tell why even when bands like Kalimba, Makasu came on the scene this the route they took is, remember ‘Sometimes I Wonder’ or ‘Let’s Talk it Over’.
Even when Alleluya Band came on the scene, reggae was the route they took and I do not need to tell you about stories of Joseph Nkasa and friends whose locally blended reggae beat has made them get riches that even surprised them.
Reggae, which originated from Jamaica, influenced the reasoning of the Malawian youth then and to an extent now. Because even when American Gangsta music has come over, the violence message that is its major theme has not moved any sensible youth, but to an extent it has killed youthful interest in reggae, which has resulted into a number of negatives including poor educational performance.
Music is an influential aspect to life and it is not just any other music but particular genres have particular influence due to its style and to an extent its lyrical authority, which is very perceptible in reggae music.