A year or so ago Grace Chinga, and I am even tempted to write ‘Grace Chinga Moffat’, thought the end of her musical career was signed and sealed.
As a gospel musician what prompted her drop the name ‘Moffat’ from the line of her names was unreligious that when it reached the ears of all and sundry, they never bothered to look down at what Jesus was scribbling down and wanted to start stoning her.
Composition of good music desires a right frame of mind so many think; more people wrongly believe this to be the case which is sometimes fallacious. Precarious and hopeless situations has made people that are in art come up with kind of work that has been described as master pieces.
On 10th October 2010 Grace unveiled what have become hits songs in her latest and third album ‘Uzayimba Nyimbo’.
Four years ago she released ‘Thandizo Langa’ which despite registering onset success ended up sneered at due to her divorce court case that revealed some unprintable bedroom acts that ended up putting her in very bad light.
Not that she never realised what this had caused to her person and career; at first she thought United Kingdom would provide an asylum where she would be able to recharge her batteries, it looks like it was never to be.
At the end it was East, West, North, South home is best and she came back home. But for four years she went into hibernation and whatever bad publicity that derided her inspired her to come up with tracks that carry pure musical touch like ‘Mundisungire Korona’.
This is her response to the ridicule she suffered when things turned up solemn after her divorce. While it is not up to me to say whether she is right or wrong to exact this kind of attack back to those that derided her, I think it is within my authority to appreciate the kind of art she has used to hit back at them with.
At the launch of her album she was never shy to declare that ‘Grace is Grace, Take it or leave it!’ as she promised to take back what is entitled to her. The instrumentation in her tracks in the album is not the hurried kick-kick, rush-rush concoction that has crammed the gospel music market.
She took her time to make music that appeal. Unlike most so called gospel musicians that sing mediocrity in the hope that people will listen to it anyway because it is gospel after all.
From such tracks like Ndayalula, Tapulumuka, Anandigula to Absalom one would appreciate, not only the resilience that I always talk about as a tool for a musician in a challenging market, but also the patience of taking time to compose and record music.
The piece of work that is Grace Chinga’s third album is one product that one rarely releases and it complicates the text book theories that prescribe what is the best mood, time, place, state of mind to compose music.
When in 1990 Grace Chinga came on the musical gospel scene with her album ‘Yenda’ it did not create any impacting ripple, that is if it has to compare with her second album ‘Thandizo Langa’. But her third album which was inspired by the setbacks in her life is potent with success as she asks God to keep her rosary and musical life.
For sure, if a musician can manage to pull surprises with two albums, for sure it makes people salivate for the fourth, what is there to discount this, if her fate is under the wraps of the keeper of her rosary?
The pen would like to drum out what ‘Talking Arts’ has bellowed in other pages of this host newspaper’s sisters. The cue line for me is that Malawian artists are also Lake of Stars.
Lake of Stars was mooted to offer a two way benefit to the nation, thus helping out the Malawi economy as well as promoting Malawi musicians.
Lakeshore districts attract tourists especially those that come to admire the beautiful Lake Malawi and its characteristic beaches. My take is that as a value addition undertaking to this naturalistic beauty, an event called lake of stars was started.
Mind you, the 2006 financial report says the tourism industry then contributed about 5.5 % to GDP in the country.
Organisers of the event have never come clean, clean in the sense of publishing in the media how much money they rake in when organising an event like this one.
In the first place I won’t hear statements like, “we do not benefit anything all we are doing is helping Malawian tourism” because no one has ever asked for help for Malawi in that sense. For sure these organisers would not have been around all these years if they were getting nothing from this undertaking.
After all, I know people from the West do not do things for free.
Ask reggae musicians they will tell you that what is even regarded as foreign aid is just paying back .0003 percent of what the West took from Africa in terms of human resources during slavery as well as returning what they got through theft of other resources like minerals, oil and timber stolen prior, during and after colonisation.
Well, I am incensed because of the abuse and exploitation that local musicians experience unknowingly or otherwise when they partake in the event.
While the organisers are not wholly to blame since bands like Black Missionaries or Lucius Banda and his Zembani Band do not have a serious firm that can knowingly manage them as musical entities, the blame nonetheless is squarely hanged on the organisers.
Malawi is equally abused when the organisers try to satisfy their gluttonous egos by not only failing to do good to the country, but also failure to make local artists show the benefits accrued ever since they started partaking in the lake of stars event.
In the absence of published audited information on how the event is run from the word go to the end, I am bound to speculate that our government will never awaken from its slumber of gullibility and look with both eyes, to establish what it is that is not done right.
While I would not want to compare a living legend like Oliver Mtukudzi to our own Lucious Banda and while I know Mtukudzi is managed by a professional as compared to our own Lucious, but could there be any justification why Mtukudzi would get K2 million while Lucious will get K100, 000 for the same event?
While the former will play for two hours for say, a three day event, where they will have to play two hours daily in all these days, the latter will only play for an hour for just a day and leaves for home with a cool K2million.
As if this is not enough, the organisers used to say local artists will be invited to international stages for their participation in the event, if I may ask can the artists that have ever gone outside the country due to their participation in the lake of stars event raise up their hands?
Honestly, government should not just get its satisfaction with the sugar coated manoeuvre of some of these imported ventures, it need to go deeper into issues so that the country is not abused, and Prof. Zungwala’s musicians are not exploited, did I say Prof. Zungwala’s musicians, no, I meant to say Malawian artists.
There is a Track done by Anne Matumbi called ‘Nyakwawa’ where he claims that when Malawian Ragga emerged, a number of artist equally emerged but due to the roughness and toughness of the tide the rest jumped ship, thinking that it was sinking.
Anne Matumbi says in the track he never deserted it and has steered it into the present. ‘Ndinakakamirabe Ngalawayo’ it’s how he expresses it. In the same breadth, there is one artist that has shown almost similar disposition; he is Fitzgerald Simfukwe.
I first heard of Fitzgerald Simfukwe when Black Missionaries used to put him along those artists to curtain raise there shows across the country. He had at the time just released an album he was calling Kadundulu.
It should have been in the mid or late 90s that I bought this copy whose cover was poorly done and on the face it was written Fitzgerald Simfukwe and the Never Ending Chitipa Wailers.
Listening to his music, one would think here is a man who would not last long because like the Area 25-C based Hax Momba he was so obsessed with the styles of Burning Spear and Culture.
Just to indicate how reggae influence has left an impression on Simfukwe, one has just to look at his supporting band. Bob Marley used to sing as Bob Marley & The Wailers and when he died in 1981, the band members thought of continuing as ‘The Never Ending Wailers’, likewise when the three pioneers of the wailers – Bob himself, Peter Herbert Macintosh and Bunny Livingstone Wailer were starting, this is the name the started with.
In folklores, Kadundulu is some little bird, which builds its home along the human paths or close to human homes because it aims at getting food crumbs left and dropped by people. Fitzgerald Simfukwe has chosen Kadundulu to be his theme. Call him a folk singer, but what he plays is purely reggae but he squarely calls it Reggae of Kadundulu music which is fighting oppression and encouraging people to live in harmony regardless of the differences.
When Fitzgerald Simfukwe decided to announce his coming he did by becoming a part of Black Missionaries’ country wide tour, how he managed to convince the Chileka boys to be part of their entourage in another story of another day.
But when he had completed the tour his album sold thousands of copies yes, but not enough to break even. Like the same bird Kadundulu, he came back home to Mzuzu to roost and turned it his operating base.
Life though was so tough and rough and besides his musical career, like is the case with our so called professional footballers, needed to be complemented with something that has to generate income. He ventured into sign writing and painting.
Whatever he was acquiring he was investing into music and from Kadundulu I he recorded two more albums Kadundulu II and Kadundulu III.
The journey though continued to offer him challenges, as performing in Mzuzu is not one of the most rewarding things, more so when you are what they consider as their own sibling from the region.
Every other time Fitzgerald Simfukwe was releasing an album it was always almost like investing in vain, but then he would sweat in other ventures to get more money for more music where most musicians would have thought this was the parting moment, he soldiered on.
Now he has selected tracks in these albums and has released a 9 track DVD he is calling it Kadundulu DVD and this has demonstrated that Fitzgerald Simfukwe is resilience personified.
This should be a spirit that musicians can borrow. If you check his DVD and are one such person who like, love and respect reggae music, you will really appreciate Fitzgerald Simfukwe’s efforts. Here and there some productions ailments which are common to every human work can be noticed but the long and short of it, is that this is a DVD to sample to reward Fitzgerald Simfukwe’s resilience in the tough and rough musical terrain in Malawi.
Dan Lufani came like one jester on the musical scene. More so because he emerged from the folds of Lucious Banda’s Zembani Band with his track ‘Shupe’. Some artists that came through this route either flopped or succeeded but none got anybody’s attention to be considered superstars.
When Dan Lufani parted ways with Zembani and started a solo career, he struggled to prove his mark and even the enlistment of the Zambia trio rightly called ‘The Third’ to give him a shove into the hall of fame never elicited any desired upshot.
But, listening to his latest toils in ‘Part of Life’, a philosophical chant that is excellently mixed with soothing instrumentation that has managed to easily relay a cryptogram he has been trying to decipher, one would pose a minute and attend to his musicality as it poses some serious challenge.
If the instrumentation will not convince any ungrateful ear, then try the lyrics which do not say anything out of ordinary but he weaves them into something that leaves you with an acceptable realisation. It then makes a conclusion that says its ‘Part of Life’ which encourages the souls in despair or those impatient to achieve greatness has something to deal with Dan’s musical maturity.
He also put his experiment with his bi-lingual approach with lyrical content in this piece like he has done in his previous ones;”Osadandaula iwe, ndi momwe moyo ukhalira – Its part of life” so he choruses.
While then it sounded childish and hurried, this time round it looks well thought of, as it exposes his other part of musical life. There seems a failure in most local artists to bridge Chichewa in this case, with English, and mould it into some oneness that would make one who neither understands Chichewa nor English believe the track was done in a single language.
He has also tried to strike a balance where he is neither moaning like is the major characteristic in Malawian music nor has he tried to be uselessly excited as is the case with some songs that some artists have offered the consumers in this country.
The listener has been given the choice to stick wherever they choose, which tricks DJs for they can either place it in a classical genre or slows or softies…
Listening to it in dancing halls and observing the reception of patrons in such joints you are left with admiration for Lufani as whatever gusto or laziness one chooses to respond to it with when dancing explains why it is the birth of Lufani’s musical legacy.
The bad side of the track would be perhaps the obsession by Malawian listenership for mistaking good music for foreign music. Because of the Chichewa element in the music the question that I have heard people asking is ‘who is this Zambian musician?’
The other anomaly is at the beginning of the song where there is some mimicking of the Late Michael Jackson which are elements musicians locally have to avoid and start creating their own signature like the Hii!Hoo! Chant of Vic Marley.
The musicality of a piece of music like Dan Lufani’s ‘Part of Life’ is then watered down when time for its live performances will commence. Because our studios are using too much sound improvisation with computer programmes, this has robbed art skills, which are the hallmark of art.
One thing that lacks in Many Malawian artists is their lack of ambitions. Except for Wambali Mkandawire and Black Missionaries who have realised that after putting their songs in CDs, they need to practice before live performances so hard that listening to such songs live, leaves the patronage with satisfaction and appreciation of the artistry display.
Dan Lufani should therefore not rob himself and those that have fallen for it of this beautiful art which he has toiled to put together when he will start live performances. He should also realise that fans are continuously getting irritated with artists that opt to mimic over something that is being played from CDs and claim they are performing live when they are supposed to be backed by players of instruments.