Do we have DJs in Malawi?

Mostof the readers of this page will remember that I have a colleague Limbani ‘LC’Chaguluka who is so knowledgeable in as far as Malawi’s Hip-hop music isconcerned.

Ionce asked him a question if at all in Malawi there is a music Disc Jockey orshortened to a DJ. Below is the response that he gave me:
“Friday following under 19 soccer games atKanjedza Full primary school ground, in Limbe. I checked the time; it wasexactly 4:15 in the afternoon.
Unconsciously I started rushing home to findChayipa Hiwa’s musical show, still in its infancy. 
I re-tuned the MBC radio to get the bestfrequency, despite being the only radio station in the land. 
Father MC Song ‘I will do it for you’ wasbeing played, then followed by Monie lovie hit single entitled ‘It’s ashame’. 
Chayipa Hiwa who  was then  known in showbiz  circles   as DJ Cha was one of the  DJ’s then, acquainted and knowledgeable playing  Hip hop  tunes seldom in the years between  1988 to1992.
Irrespective of being  called DJ’s  then,  most of the radio  presenters who took the initiative of playing urban and Hip hop songs , whoincluded  Danny P(Daniel Phiri)  , The late Philip Mwala Moyo,  and Gerald Nyamacherenga,  did not qualify to be called DJ’s in the first place.
The reason was basically that, they were not‘turntablists’’.  A turntablesim is definedas the art of manipulating sounds and creating music using Vinyl turntablesystem or record player in simple expression. This art ultimatelydifferentiates between a DJ and a music presenter.
Nevertheless, despite these short comings,especially in mixing the records  andusing the DJ as their  title when hostingtheir musical programmes, Chayipa Hiwa, showbiz name  Dj Cha, the late Phillip Mwala Moyo, and Martin Chilimampunga have to beapplauded for taking the initiative of playing the first Malawian Hip hopsongs.
The late Phillip Mwala Moyo show   ‘Nyimbo za Achinyamata’   changed the whole landscape  and propelled Malawian Hip hop songs, which took even 3 months  before youcould listen to one on MBC  radio.
Mwala Moyo, I recall was the firstDj/Presenter   to play one of the firstMalawian Hip hop songs on radio in the land back then.
Tapps Bandawe’s song   shuwamagaye mabebi  nonse “  line, still resonates  in  my head  when I first heard  therecord   back  then, while I was still in elementary school.
It was unheard of for a song of that nature to beplayed on MBC radio in early 90’s.  Thenslowly  Malawian hip hop songsstarted  flooding the airwaves ,masterminded and  orchestrated by  the late Mwala Moyo , who once again needs to  be applauded enormously  for  start of the  long walk of thisgenre , which is mostly ridiculed  asnoisy and senseless  by most people,  who are not able to understand  the poetry ingrained  in these songs.
Of course, it would be difficult  todefend  the state of  hip hop today ,as the culture has been invadedby  corporations and otherentrepreneurs,  who   have more power  in changing thedirection of messages in the songs to promote their own agendas, primarilywhich is making profit  over  the essence of  the songs .
DJ Danny ‘p’ showbiz name Daniel Phiri played hisrole as well in promoting songs done by Mzuzu Rap group   Boyz Layz  who made their impact, driven by UNICEF’s   Aids awareness campaign targeting the youth.
Talented lyrical genius Criminal-A   song titled “Guess who is back” was instantclassic. The song was a regularly on ‘Nyimbo za Achinyamata’ as it was wayahead of its time in terms of lyrics and production.
Ten years down the line, year 1999, finallyMalawi has a true DJ.  Yes, I amreferring to someone who can be creative with sounds, breaking and scratchingrecords to produce the unique sounds accustomed to Hip hop.
The Dr was scratching and mixing records at will,a talent which is not common among presenters or the so called DJ’s.  Gwynz aka Dr Gwynz did set a benchmark forDJ’s rules and principles, which every inspiring DJ was aiming at. 
Irrespective of  being renowned as  Hip hop DJ, Gwynz could  mix and break different  music genres,  without being  afraid of crossing  the lines. Ultimately Malawi had true‘turntablist’.
 At thattime, Comrades, the first rappers in Malawi to fuse hip hop with Malawianheritage, whom later changed their name to ‘Khamuladzi’, were being recognisedby the hip hop enthusiasts as the most conscious Malawian hip hop group to evergrace the culture. 
DJ Gwynz took the opportunity by  breakingand mixing  their popular song   ‘Africa’  in a cleverest way which I have never heard of, truly cementing hisreputation as a true ‘turntables’.
So what’s, the significance of a DJ, especiallyHip hop DJ?   Deejaying  is one important element of hip hop, as such people who are given theresponsibility of  playing hip hoprecords, be it on radio stations, clubs or hip hop shows are  suppose be wellacquainted   with  history of the culture. 
Shortfalls in the knowledge of the culture by theDJ’s can led to negative repercussions, in regards to the depth of songs beingplayed.
Most young people listen to hip hop, hence  DJ’s must be well informed to play songs which can inspire and compel  young people to their  dreams, not conversely, since negativity is prevalent in some hip hop songs.
The legendary Krs-One once defined  Hip hop as “Her  Infinite powers helpOppressed People” , as such  Hip hopmusic should not glorify delinquency  or malpractices dueto nature of songs played or  promoted bythe DJ’s.  DJ’s are face of hip hop,incompetent DJ will ruin the fundamentals of the culture.”

The Return of Charles Sinetre

Last time on these pages I screamed ‘Cry OurBeloved Alleluya Band’ basically I wanted to argue that our modern history ofdigital music, will not be better told from the beginning if it does not startfrom Alleluya Band.

I had indicated that no bands that used toplay before the multiparty dispensation could compare with Alleluya Band; suchbands were like the Likhubula Dance Band, which was backing Robert Fumulani,there were also Police Orchestra, the MBC Band and the Chichiri Queens anduncountable local artist.
There was also talent within the country butthere was no knowledge of how one could put his talent into musical productthrough a recording studio.
Bands used to go to one and only place wherethe Malawian music was played and therefore this is where they used to listento their music and for that reason, they knew that bands used to record therebecause there was nowhere else and this was at the Malawi BroadcastingCorporation MBC studios.
The music was also being recorded merely forMBC airplay because it was being stored on reels, which was something thatcould not be taken on the market for sale?
At least it was only the emergence on thescene of Alleluya Banda from Balaka, led by the agile guitarist hands of Sir.Paul Banda, that led people to realise several things about what can happenwith music.
Then there is the list of the country’s mostaccomplished artists, you mention artists like Charles Sinetre, Coss Chiwalo,Isaac Liwotcha, Rod Valamanja, Paul Subiri, che Kachingwe, and the list is justtoo long to fill the whole page with names.
I want us to talk more about the man whoonce used to call himself the music ambassador Charles Sinetre.
Then there was total dearth of music fromthe Music Ambassador, at one time he had gone to a University in Italy, then hewas Music Teacher and Trainer at Andiamo Youth Campusespecially at its Cecilia Youth Centre.
Then he wasExecutive Director of a Balaka based Nkhadze Alive Youth Organization (Nayorg),and an aspirant in parliamentary elections.
What wasdisheartening in all this was the lack of singing from him. Sinetre carvedhimself a name in the country and across the borders for his multitalentedmusic exploits.
Hespearheaded the growth of Alleluya Band and made it to still stand tall evenafter the departure of the Banda brothers.
Nonetheless,like most band members, he was also doing his solo musical journey and I don’tremember when I last heard or saw a latest album from Sinetre.
Now the singer-songwriter and activist Charles Sinetre isback with yet another album title ‘Malawi Googler’.
Don’t you waste time questioning the title, Sinetre is akind of musician who coins new things, themes, terms and even sound toowhenever producing his music. Rember ‘Chimanga Fisi Dollar’ the one hecollaborated with Foster Chimangafisi?
If you still have its sleeve, check the innovation that isthere to depict the dollar power.
He also has an explanation to his strange inventions, like thereason behind the title he says is to call upon all Malawians to explore theresources that the country can use to make it a country of a place of milk andhoney.
He says the main theme of the album is to call upon everyMalawian to believe that all other nations of the world have their type ofresources that make them independent when put them in optimum use. The music inthe album also teaches us that Malawi has the resources that very well utilizedwill change the nation.
The album is based on the internet engine search calledGoogle where anything that one searches, one gets. He thinks he is going toGoogle Malawi’s resource base, based on this album.
I am yet to listen to the 12 track album with two songs whichhe says ia a recap of his last works, ‘Kapena Tsiku lina’ and ‘Never throw a Stone’from ‘Timasilira’ album.
Sinetre knows that Timasirila is one of his best albums nowonder the return to the tracks in it.
Knowing what is pulling who on the market these days, he hasalso incorporated Dan Lufani in the new album, in tracks ‘Timadziwana’ and’Isugugu’.
Like a music teacher and musician developer, he has alsofeature little known young boy from Khoswe village, Balaka, like he did withthat little girl who should be woman now.
When he will be launching the album on October 29 at the RobinsPark eight years ago after realising his last solo album ‘Saulo’ what I will becherishing is not whatever message or kind of music is in the album, but thatat least he is back.
Sinetre is one of the modern musicpioneers; it was therefore disheartening that his musical career was on itsdeath bed when the man behind it was so active in other adventures. Welcomeback Mr. Ambassador, stay and teach the youth now, do not hibernate.

Gramps Morgan Mourned Lucky Dube

Not that today is the day that Lucky PhillipDube was killed, no! Nor is it the day that he was born, he was born in August1964, which three months ago; but at least this coming Wednesday October 18 isthe date that became the red lettered day for reggae lovers.

Four years ago, the evening of October 18 in2007, Lucky Dube was shot dead in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenvilleshortly after dropping two of his seven children off at their uncle’s house.
Apparently the assailants were after Dube’sChrysler 300Che was driving when dropping his children. Police reports suggest he was shotdead by carjackers.
As the world commemorate the fourthanniversary after the iconic African Reggae King was killed, I try to give aspecial mention on a track called ‘Always and Forever’ done by Grampa Morgan inhis debut album  “Two sides of My heartVol. One”
The feelingwould: Grampa Morgan? Who the heck is he?
Well, he wasborn Roy Morgan, as one of the legendary Denroy Morgan’s seventeen sons and wasaffectionately given the name “Grampa” on the day of his birth by an aunt whonoticed his uncanny resemblance to his grandfather.  
Then Roy‘Grampa’ Morgan became Gramps a name that is said to have followed him throughouthis youth hood before it became his showbiz name.
He is a memberof the internationally renowned reggae group, Morgan Heritage; a band composedof five family members out of his 29 other siblings, some of whom have formeddifferent musical groups like LMS.
I am notqualified to write an account that is Morgan Heritage, which at the tender ageof nine, Gramps became part of. He recorded over ten albums with the band.
Together as Morgan Heritage they have soldmillions before going into recess but as their father Denroy Morgan presagedthat one day, each of the group members would travel own journey to achievesolo stardom. More than a decade later Gramps is now is just fulfilling it andalready he has bagged numerous awards.
As a specialized vocalist with his huskyand deep hiding voice, and a master on keyboard player as well as stage performer,Gramps released his first official single as a solo artist, “Wash the Tears”,under his own Dada Son Entertainment label which entered Italy’s Top 20 SinglesChart at number eight.
His debut first solo album, Two Sides of MyHeart – Vol. 1 in 2009 earned him three awards for Best New Entertainer, BestSong (“Wash the Tears”) and Best Crossover Song (“Therapy” featuring IndiaArie) at the 2010 International Reggae and World Music Awards.
Healso earned a nomination for Reggae Artist of the Year at the 2010 Soul TrainMusic Awards and went on to win Album of the Year at the 6th Annual Excellencein Music and Entertainment Awards. Gramps’ work and collaboration with reggaesuperstar Buju Banton on his album “Before the Dawn” won the awardfor Best Reggae Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2011.
Gramps is currently recording his second studio album, which is presentlyuntitled and scheduled to be released sometime in 2011.
He plans to release Two Sides of My Heart -Volume 2 in 2012, which will be an R&B and country inspired album withcollaborations with Kenny Rodgers and others.
With such a record, Lucky Dube would nothave needed any other tribute from no lesser a Person than Gramps.
In the track “Always and Forever” Grampsstart by singing ‘Lucky Dube’  over andover before wondering:
“What could he have done so wrong? Did weeven know he was one of the JAH prophets? Listen to his great songs, oh Jah, Whata man we have lost so”He then sings that “We always will rememberyou now and forever for the works you have carried out and we will not forgetall of the things you did.”
He then declares in the song that “this isa sign to show the times have changed” and repeats that “they have changed”over and over again.
Gramps then pledges that “Now that you’reamongst the starts, We will make sure your work lives on, Crying tears willfall time to time… But memories of you, help us carry on sooo, We always willremember you now and forever for the words you have carried out and, We willnot forget all of the things you did this is a sign to show that times havechanged.”
The song says in the last stanza that “Somewill come, some will go but the works you’ve done will still live on. Just likethe prophets of old you were one, a chosen one some will come, some will go butthe works you’ve done will still live on just like the prophets of old surely.”
LuckyDube also amassed uncountable awards in his life time and performed before allkinds of people including Malawians. Gramps I think mourned him better!


Death Stabs Music on Mwanyama

Towards the month-end of December 2010,Lovemore Mwanyama was the one that the media quoted when Skeffa Chimoto, thecurrent top selling musician escaped death in a road accident.

Mwanyama is the one who explained to themedia that Skeffa and his band Real Sounds were en-route to Lilongwe fromSalima when the vehicle they were travelling in had a tyre burst.
Lovemore Mwanyama, was speaking asSkeffa’s Manager then.
Now, this year, towards the end ofSeptember, Skeffa took up the task of informing the media that unlike him,Mwanyama never survived a road accident and died at the Kamuzu CentralHospital.
My interest is not in the comparing thetwo accidents and the exchange of positions for the two, but to mourn with themusic industry on a huge loss suffered on the decease of Mwanyama.
I used to think Lovemore Mwanyama is atfirst Mlaka Maliro’s hangers-on and when I started seeing him closer to whereSkeffa was when performing live; I thought the habit to get attracted by famousmusicians was in his blood.
Little did I realise that in fact he wasthe King Maker.
McDonald Mlaka Maliro is Malawi’s musicianwhom President Bingu wa Mutharika declared is his best local artist.
To reach that kind of musical zenith is noteasy. It never only depends on one’s chance but it also needs to a boost fromone’s natural talent.
At one time in the country, Mlaka usedto be a ladies’ musician where every other lady in the country would tell youthey fall for Mlaka Maliro’s music.
At one time Mlaka Maliro, Billy Kaundaand of course their Godfather Lucius Banda used to be the musicians of specialmention in the country. 
He is perhaps the only musician who cansell in Japan after making a name when there when he collaborated with aJapanese Kohei Yamada, who served as a member of the Japan Overseas CooperationVolunteers (JOCV) in Malawi.
They co-authored and recorded a songthat became a number-one hit “Ndimakukonda,” in order to raise awarenessof HIV/AIDS prevention.
I am telling you all this about Mlaka,not because I have digressed, but I want to show you how great Mlaka was andstill is and how he could afford all this success because Lovemore Mwanyama washis manager.
Then let’s talk about Skeffa Chimoto.These pages have written so much about him as a person and his successful musicalexploits. In fact his top record as a musician is there for all to see.
He is indisputably the country’s currenttop selling musician with his ‘Ndife Amodzi’ latest album.
Lovemore Mwanyama assisted Mlaka to gainautonomy when he helped him assemble Maloto Vibration, likewise Skeffa Chimoto’sReal Sounds Band, it was Mwanyama who helped him build it.
Then there is a horde of musicians that Mwanyamaassisted through counselling and recording them at his Eclipse Studio.
The hullabaloo that is Lake of Starswhere musicians showcase talent is where musicians worth their salt in thecountry feel honoured once invited to perform.
Skeffa was this year invited to performat the event but pulled out at the eleventh hour to pay respect to the fallenLovemore Mwanyama.
Chimoto never concealed his grief and loss on the death of Mwanyamasaying for him to be in the limelight today, it is because of Mwanyama.
Mwanyama spotted potential in Skeffa and helped him nurture his talentuntil it reached where all of us now heard and saw that there is one SkeffaChimoto in the music industry.
On September 28, 2011 Lovemore Mwanyama, was interred at his homeKalanzi village at Mlangeni in Traditional Authority Njolomole in Ntcheu, atthe age of 40 when his life was just starting.
In fact, his life was supposed to start on 25 October this monthbecause this is the date he was born way back in 1971.
I hope musicians like Mlaka Maliro and Skeffa Chimoto who willrealise how painful the stab, death has inflicted on the music industry ingeneral and on them in particular, will mourn with measured grief.
More so, because deaths of people like Mwanyama need to becelebrated and not mourned.
At least if all others would honour his life, I expect MlakaMaliro and Skeffa Chimoto to compose and record song or songs on LovemoreMwanyama that should help to celebrate his decorated life.

Vita Chirwa: Kalimba’s Memory

In1976, Kalimba Band started the guitar strumming, drum beating, sax blowing, andpercussion tingling business and never in their minds did the band members thatstarted it, ever thought, that 35 years later the band will still be playing.

GriffinMhango and Nassau Mkukupha used to play Jazz as their mainstay, standard,traditional and party music at a time when there was a strong unwritten law:“Despise the Musician, But Love his Music”.

Thebig statement for the band, though, waited until seven years later when itbecame the first band to try their hands on international scale and proved toall and sundry that Malawians were also musically endowed.

Withthe album, “Make Friends with the World” produced by world famed producer Attievan Wyk under the banner of a South African record label called DephonPromotions, the band failed to beat its own records and even with proliferationof musicians it has not been possible to beat this bar.
Itreminds me of the legacy that the 1984 released best selling reggae album of alltime by Reggae King Bob Marley rightly called ‘Legend’ has achieved by beingone such album that is still not been beaten by all the new and thought to bevery innovative releases.
TheBand was the work of five musicians that have unfortunately been missing fromthe list of the people that the country’s presidency honours every Republicananniversary celebration on July 6.
Themain driver of the “Make Friends with the World” album was the masterfulGriffin Mhango who was the Band Leader, Composer, Arranger, Guitarist as wellas vocalist. Bright Nkhata on vocals and saxophone, Stain Phiri on Keyboards,Isaac Nyirenda on the drum set and Francis Chintembo shaking things with thebass guitar completed the list of the group that made headlines.   
Someof such tracks included ‘Sometimes I Wonder’, ‘My Love’, ‘No or Nada’, ‘Wake UpGet Up’, ‘Let’s Talk It Over’, the title track- ‘Make Friends with the World’, ‘TooMany Rains Ago’ and ‘In This World’. Six of these tracks which had BrightNkhata’s dominant, unique and golden voice were a composition of GriffinMhango.

Now, you can wonder that twenty-eight years after the release of the hit album,Kalimba is back. I am afraid to call it resurrection because Vita Chirwa the currentband member and a friend of mine who is the band’s sax player will not forgiveme.
InAugust Sunbird Capital Hotel and Capital City Motel were the venues where theband celebrated lives and success of the original members.
OnSeptember 24th and 25th it was the turn of Mzuzu tohonour the five original members and this is when I realised that Vita Chirwa,the current Kalimba Band leader, Lead singer, and keyboardist is theinstitutional memory that is still carrying out the memory of a band started byhis uncle Griffin.
Listeningto sound radiating from their state-of-the-art 40 thousand watts brand newmusical equipment you could not fault them at all on all the songs played from ‘MakeFriends with the World’.   
Buthours that they played would surely have made the show a laughing stock and inbetween they had to play tracks that were originally done by among othersKool andGang, Eddy Grant, Paul Simon, Bob Marley.
Mzuzupatrons were jerked into a total surprise when Kalimba sprung the famous Nigeriansong on the dancing floors across the country at the moment called “called “SawaSawa alé” by Flavour.
Itis not common to find a band holding together worldwide the way Kalimba hasdone over all these years. What is fascinating is that the line up has changedas years were changing, not to mention death taking most of its members aswell, but Kalimba has stuck to its original ideals and vision.
VitaChirwa along the way has released solo album and single tracks, but stilletched somewhere in his psyche was the knowledge that Kalimba should one dayreturn on stage.
Thecurrent crop of players seems resolute to perpetuating the Kalimba vision withDick Chikweza on drums, Blessings Nkhoma on guitar, Dan Sibale on altosaxophones and Mayeso Chirwa on tenor Sax, Jack Chisinga on bass, ChifundoKatsekera on percussion and Steve Lifesa on keys.
Likethose that have been honoured in the past, Vita Chirwa also deserves suchhonour, I am not just saying.