Veep Joyce Banda Sings in Nkhatabay

Gray Mtila is one of the country’s accomplished musicians. He worked in the Malawi Police Band after graduating from Nullhall Music College in the United Kingdom.
He also became the first black teacher of music at the glamorous Kamuzu Academy, but after retiring from there, he led and taught a number of church choirs. His death, though sombre, was during a church sermon where he collapsed at the pulpit and was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
This musician sired one girl Joyce, who stood out amongst her siblings; she married a lawyer Richard ‘Mwanabola Shoeshine’ Banda who became Chief Justice in his homeland as well as in the Kingdom of Swaziland. She even went on to become the Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi.
Like her boss State President Bingu wa Mutharika who has a number of tracks to his credit, it has been irresistible to also tell the nation that Joyce Banda has now joined the fray.
She has been singing since 2006 but in the confines of her Malosa home in Zomba but now she has jumped parameter and she is in Nkhatabay South-East where on August 1, 2010 she also sang in presence of her husband, two daughters and her sister.
She sings through the Gray Mtila Music Trophy which she established in honour of her father the musician. In Nkhatabay alone, a whooping half million kwacha was spent for the competition.
If you must know, when the professor went there to appreciate the depth of musicality at such an event with the mind of condemning the whole of it and sway the Veep to direct her resources elsewhere, he was stopped right in his tracks, and instead called on all and sundry to sing along Joyce Banda.
Just to share with you, the competition was divided in three categories; one where women singers contested and other two categories where the youth tried each other out as classical gospel musicians as well as traditional gospel musicians.
The chief Judge, himself an accomplished music scholar heaped praises on Nkhatabay’s traditional music which he described as top quality. Nevertheless, there were gaps that needed filling like Mkhokwe and Kalambwe Choirs which performed powerful traditional songs but that needed polishing.
The choirs were unaware of voice arrangement where the harmony had a characteristic of soprano domination, the same with voice projections, most were using voice of speech and in so doing failed the singing purpose.
The choir directors also completely failed their tasks where 1. They never knew where to stand, 2. As conductors they let the choirs direct them instead of doing the directing.
The Chief Judge then went further to explain how the choirs failed in terms of expression, diction where they were enclosing what would have been musical words with their mouths, while going out of pitch was like a fashion and instruments for the choirs that used them sounded at war with voices.
Nonetheless, all participants won. Those that fell in quarter finals had K2, 000 to take home, in semi-finals had K4,000 while those that failed in the finals took home K5, 000. For number three in the three categories each got K10, 000 while those that scooped second positions had K20, 000.
The trophy and K30, 000 for the Youth Classic category went to New Apostolic Faith Choir, while similar take home for the Youth traditional category went to Bandawe CCAP Choir, likewise in the women category Tiyanjane CCAP Women Choir got the prize.
When all is said and done, the music industry in the country should ride on the back of Madam Joyce Banda’s desire to honour her father. Even minus honouring her legendary father, she is doing a rarity to the Malawi music industry and she needs to be applauded.
By the way, she has challenged all the parts of the country to show her their interest and the tentacles of the trophy will reach them.
Much as she is not practically singing, but she has been singing the moment she established the Gray Mtila Musical Trophy which in her words she says it provides an opportunity for the youth and women to work together as well as spread the word of God through Gospel music.


After Evison and Saleta, Who’s next?

Historical enough is the feat where Evison Matafale and Saleta Phiri became the first musicians to be conferred ‘The Malawi Honours of the Achievers Award’ alongside other 13 Malawians of accomplished achievements in different spheres of life.
For the first time, no it cannot be, because this is first time happening, but at least government approached Musician Association of Malawi (MAM) on who to settle for according to MAM president Costen Mapemba.
Matafale started two bands, one called the ‘Wailing Brothers’ which backed his Kuimba 1 album and the second one which helped him finally find his feet and pointed to a mission that he had been carrying in his mind. He called it the ‘Black Missionaries’.
The exploits of the Missionaries long after his death, is something that need no introduction. To an extent, it has managed to carry forth his dreams and aspirations. His coming and going from the musical stage left a spool of controversies that still remain a mystery that many have resorted to speculate on.
Equally controversial was Saleta Phiri of the ‘Iri muufa’ conundrum. While Matafale’s legacy is built from Chileka base, Saleta’s was built in an area of Ndirande which is equally volatile [in social, religious and political sense], but all in the heart of Blantyre. He perpetuated his career with his own made AB Sounds.
While no one is justified to question why the awards went to the two, the pen intends to drum out something to the contrary. Contrary not because it is in disagreement with the honour the two received, but because it has questions that beg some answers.
To start with, did the government restrict the nominations to two or it picked two from several that MAM suggested?
Let’s say it settled for two, did any names on that list include that of the likes of Daniel Kachamba, Alan Namoko, Bright Nkhata or Ada Manda? Or the other question is was the honours supposed to be conferred posthumously?
If the option was open ended, did the living legends like Ben Michael Mankhamba, Wambali Mkandawire or Paul Banda to mention but a few ever come to the fore?
Whether one want to accept it or not, it is clear to all that have eyes and ears that the current generation of our music has a father in Paul Banda.
While for Wambali, this is a man who withstood the test of dangerous political times and still survived. Here is a man who defied the boundaries within which our music is restricted and trail blazed the soils of foreign land with music that is purely Malawian.
Knowing that government work on a tight budget, perhaps the road that we have to travel from here need not be one where we should question whether or not Matafale and Saleta deserve the honours.
We need to sing songs like the pen is drumming at the moment of patting government on the back for recognising musicians.
At least a process has been started and the wheels are now in motion and the next thing has to look at who should be the next names of musicians, dead or alive, who we have to honour.