Where is the musicality in Mbewa Zanga?


There has been a wave of madness in entertainment joints and on air thus radio stations and the Malawi Television with a track ‘Mbewa Zanga’ by Wilson Mwase.
Whenever I listen to this particular track, I have always asked those that I am listening to it with, especially those that I see jumping up and down the moment the track starts playing, what moves them with the track.
There has always been one honest answer that has been always coming in two forms, lingual form other than musical though: “Ndimangoikonda” is one form the other one is “Nkhuitemwa waka” meaning “I just like it”.
Whenever I ask a person why they like a particular song, this is always the response they always give out; I have also heard a number of people on radios saying they love [or is it like] a particular song just because they like or love it.
Now back to Mbewa Zanga; would anyone care to remember what his or her first reaction was after getting a glimpse of this song?
Mine was like aah! So we have another comedian on the musical market…It more reminded me of the fallen musical dramatist Kennedy Ndoya a.k.a Modolo.
Madolo was an excellent flute player who used to mix his talents with comedies just like ‘Njati Njedede’.
You cannot gauge the popularity it has achieved better than looking at the copies sold officially so far, 19,000 copies! But you are aware that some of you who have this album got it through a flash disk and never spent a penny.
To cap it on the fame the particular Mbewa Zanga track has generated, just last week, right on these pages, it was announced that he has even clinched a deal with Citinati Music Company where he is no longer the rights holder of the video album where this track is; by the way, this is his debut album.
I will not be talking yet about the dynamics involved with such arrangement, but I want us to rather look at this particular track and appreciate its musicality.
In the first place, how did it become a favourite? Is it because it is a nice track or because radios and entertainment joints jumped on it and gave it enough audibility, the moment Wilson Mwale released this album of the same title track.
Then we would say yes, it is a good track, because we have many songs being released around, all the time but we rarely find it going on top of the well-established tracks.
To start with, the subject in the song, which is funnier than the technicality of the song, in general is what first attracted audience.
The husband goes out there to hunt for mice and successfully brings home two. Now when it is time for the meal, he is shocked to discover that although he was salivating to have a go at this delicacy all he sees on the plate are two ‘tails’ of the mice, now he is demanding his two mice back lest the marriage will break.
This tale alone will make you frown with disbelief, this is what is selling the track, and it is what is the flagship for its popularity, the subject matter in the message.
Technically, the musical aspect of the song is low quality; it is the usual rushed stuff that has besieged the market. The sound arrangement is monotonous; the message is further lost on the artist as he can clearly be seen to be searching to link the demand of the mice and what he has to sing.
A good song should have all the instruments speaking the same language. Where all, the bass, drums, percussion, the guitars and even the trumpet and/or saxophone all speak English. However, the moment each instrument speak a different language, then what one has is a different story all together. This element makes a track achieve its musicality.
If one were to take up the same instrumentation but let it carry a different message, believe you me the track ‘Mbewa Zanga’ would not have been as popular.
Feedback: drummingpen@columinist.com

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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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5 Responses to Where is the musicality in Mbewa Zanga?

  1. Mr. Intelligent and knowedgeable anonymous, to start with I don't respect people who hide behind something when they want to criticise.If you had a valid point, like your colleagues above pointed out, you should have done the same to explain why you think I have shown my ignorance here, otherwise all you display is some crazy jealous that is stemming from your devilish mind…Come in the open please if you are Genuine Mr. Anonymous…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just stumbled over this so called song review. Mr Gondwe you would do yourself justice commenting on issues you understand better. You don't know what you are saying here.

  3. … Continued from previous Post)In Chikamwini, a man can hardly criticize the conducts of a woman, or else he faces a whip (being chased).Similarly, men are generally not allowed to question the kitchen decisions made by the woman almost in every culture. Their duty is to bring the food and its ends there. What the woman does with the food is of no concern to the man. If you do, you are considered waumbombo, kanga ndiwamba. This is an indication, men suffer in silence. What does the persona in Mbewa Zanga which is sensational. He tackles issues affecting so many people. He challenges the mainstream culture of silence among men on kitchen stuff. The persona has questioned his wife over some of her kitchen decisions and most significantly, despite being a m'kamwini. Its a challenge that is similar to what Chakufwa Chihana did when he challenged Kamuzu Banda.Mwase is not ready to be shown the whip and get divorced by the woman, but he is more than ready and more confident to voluntarily leave that home if he is not given his mice. By default, he will constructively divorce the wife and not vice versa when he says apo bi ndimangapo (I will leave this house). He does not say ndikufuna mbewa zanga ngakhale mundimangitse tiakatundu tanga nkundi pirikitsa (I need my mice even if you chase me from this house-divorce me).Chihana also knew that challenging Kamuzu would imply into him being arrested. But what did he do, he came and challenged the original Ngwazi. and came to be arrested. Currently, the voters are challenging Bingu wa Mutharika even when some are fearing that they can be arrested (from the background of arrests and adverts embargo being shown to the media).The song is popular because it identifies itself with the sufferings people are subjected to. Be it in chikamwini or against gender based violence, or in politics. Those people you asked were not critical as you were (if you indeed asked them question or asked them in a critical way). Mbewa Zanga is routinely formulaic with a focus on basic instincts of aggression, revenge, violence, [and] greed, all elements of popular culture.Have you ever wondered why songs like Mabala (Lucius Banda), Moyo wa Mtawuni, Anajere (Ben Mankhamba), Peremende (San B), Amakhala ku Blantyre (Peter Mawanga) remain supersonic hits. From new school we have Anakabango (Young Kay), Biriwiri’s Deyile Deyile, zubwera mochedwa just to mention a few, are also hits.Personas in these songs identify issues affecting the people. The songs are in one way or the other aggressive while mixing up genres, or classes with folktales. Even if you take out the instrumentations, the lyrics would still be hits. Just like Third Eye did when he supported the launch of Maska's album. He took away his beats and used dancehall riddims on the same lyrics and FCC went ablaze.In popular culture, the lyrics matter most. So if you remove the instrumentation and take the lyrics on another beat, it will remain a hit. The lyrics carry issues affecting the general masses, other wise not all instrumentations are jazz.In conclusion, Mbewa Zanga may be of low quality to you but it is of higher quality to most critical reviewers in the society. Neither is it rushed. This scribe has shown that sound system, just like the lyrics, presents the totality of IDEAS, PERSPECTIVES, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed [un]preferred per an INFORMAL consensus within the mainstream of a given culture – Malawi.Mbewa Zanga track is the collection of ideas that PERMEATES THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF PEOPLE in our community while being viewed as minor. And as you say rightly, it uses the paradox of the demands of mice. That kills it all as the top song of the year.

  4. By Pearson Nkhoma (099 154 5757)First, forgive me for writing this now. I was checking on your review of the song Mbewa Zanga (my Mice) by Wilson Mwase which you did somewhere in May or June and I was very surprised that such a shallow review came from you, the Drumming Pen aka Gregory Gondwe. Fortunately enough, the same review is available on your blog.It showed you as a person with very little, if any knowledge and understanding regarding Popular Culture, popularly known as Pop Culture (forgive me for that as it may seem to be a personal attack). Disregarding the contention and complication of the concept, Pop Culture can easily be defined as the totality of IDEAS, PERSPECTIVES, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed [un]preferred per an INFORMAL consensus within the mainstream of a given culture.It is the collection of ideas that PERMEATES THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF PEOPLE in a given community. It is a way of being TRIVIAL AND DUMBED-DOWN EXPRESSION aimed at obtaining consensual acceptance/recognition throughout the mainstream (or through general acceptance of the mainstream cultures). I have deliberately put some emphasis on some words/phrases for the sake of this scribe. My focus is one songs falling within pop culture since we are talking of Mbewa Zanga here.As from this definition, Pop Culture is eclectic that mixes genres to reach out to people. Songs within pop culture do not follow the general principles or codes taught in a music class unless it is part of the subject areas.Under its principles, a song mixes up so many genres-Kwasakwasa, pop, rock, R&B, and what have you. This is what makes you to refer to Mbewa Zanga as a collection of noise. According to the Drumming Pen and most teachers of music who have not come across Pop Culture or those who mostly give negative criticism to pop culture say something like this: “A good song should have all the instruments speaking the same language. Where all, the bass, drums, percussion, the guitars and even the trumpet and/or saxophone all speak ENGLISH. However, the moment each instrument speak a different language (Say Chiyao, Chitumbuka, Chitonga or Chilomwe), then what one has is a different story all together. This element makes a track achieve its musicality”.What you are giving is clear of neo-colonization that says western is good (English is good). Musicality is very diverse and can not be achieved by one language. Examples are even in some songs that are certified multi-platinum or diamond by world billboards. Have you ever noticed that most songs of the Black Eyed Peas have also that nonsense noise you talk about? But people love their futuristic songs which in your words, instrumentals speak a different language, most of which are futurist. We have songs like Boom boom pow blending electro-rap dance pop, electro-hop and hip hop. The song mixes up genres and mostly breaks the basic codes of the music. Does it surprise you that Boom Boom Pow topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 consecutive weeks and named 7th on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the DecadeHave you ever noted that the sensational hit, burn it up by R. Kelly is an eclectic of R&B and reggaeton? You will even note that most hits do mix up these chambas (genred) like pop, acoustic, rock, reggae, R&B, reggaeton (what I call Passada) or Samba (what I call south American Kwasakwasa). LOL. I hope you are by far, now imagining some hits.Most significantly, as expressed in the pop culture definition, songs falling under pop culture depict an expression of the minority/or issues in abstract way against cultures accepted by the general populace….

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have the song on MP3. It is not the type of song you can play to your non-Malawian friends. You'l just embarrass yourself. Mbewa Zanga s not a song…it is just nthano panji kuti chidokonyiYou have to be Malawian, born and bred in Malawi to like the song. Feminists would hate it though.

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