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.


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