Chitipa Wailers: Coming of age


Chitipa Wailers or to put it succinctly, The Never Ending Chitipa Wailers sounds complete when it starts with Fitzgerald Simfukwe.
Last time I talked about Simfukwe I said he is resilience personified. Now I want to discuss about his struggling music career and how he has managed to defy the odd and reach where he is at.
He emerged from Chitipa and conquered the musical world when those that are from places considered well exposed have stumbled.
He released the first album and promoted it under the wings of top selling Black Missionaries. His maiden DVD he promoted it with the master himself Lucius Banda and now he has acquired state-of-the-art band equipment from the UK.
The equipment include lead, bass, rhythm Guitars each with an accompanying amplifier; there are also five backing vocalists and a specialty lead vocalist microphones while the drum set has numerous inbuilt microphones and like the keyboard each has its own amplifier.
The equipment is valued at K1.5 million, courtesy of a Briton by the name of Glenn Gwhobden who has been visiting Mzuzu and coincidentally each time he was visiting he was finding FitzGerald performing. He was forced to meet him after the last show in 2010 when he was launching his Kadundulu DVD. He bought it and then expressed interest to help.
The musical journey for FitzGerald started on 12 April 1974, when he was born. Then Chitipa Model Primary School was where he got his first knowledge as he would be trekking from his village Ishakira which is a 3km away journey between 1981 and 83. This only stopped when his home village had its own primary school. The father was working in the department of water supply while the mother was a medical laboratory assistant which made them to move around to Karonga where he enrolled at Lulindo and then Bumba in Rumphi where he was selected to Chitipa Secondary School.
After he finished school in 1996 and his mother sent him to Mzuzu technical where only after three months he discontinued a Motor Vehicle Mechanical course and decided to concentrate on music.
As early as standard 4 he had already started mimicking Bob Marley and other musical artists famous at that time and the big boys at his school would then be giving him money for his performances.
In 1996 he started practicing international tune of the six-stringed acoustic guitar under the tutelage of Thatcher Ng’oma who befittingly is now a musical teacher in Lilongwe.
In 1997 they grouped together as Mzuzu youth and formed a band called Black Combination whose members were Winster Chibaka now in Botswana and his brother Vitumbiko now in the US. Thatcher, Jonas Msuku, who ended up playing in Charles Nsaku’s Ali ku Town Sounds, Sam Kamanga who passed away, Lusungu Nsonda now playing with Body Mind and Soul and his brother Peter also in the US and versatile Wanangwa Msowoya.
In 1997 tycoon Marshal the Dukes, sponsored them and they became Thandi’s Du Vibrations named after his wife. After a year the band disbanded.
Between 1999 and 2000 composition of Kanduli I commenced but since there was no studio in Mzuzu at this time, he stopped concentration in music and did a lot of art painting and signposts in order to raise money for the recording. In 2001 on December 24 he trekked down to Blantyre.
As fate had it, and similar to Burning Spear story where he coincidentally run into Bob Marley whom he asked about an opportunity to record and Bob introduced him to studio one, when FitzGerald reached Blantyre he run into Evison Matafale who upon introducing himself he took him to the studio where he was recording his music.
He told him that he would like FitzGerald to also be produced by the agile hands of Chuma Soko at MC Studio in Chitawira but unfortunately since it was festive season Chuma was on Christmas break.
He ended up being produced by Andrew Chikusa who worked on one of the tracks in the maiden album ‘Iwe Ruby ukhale pa Nthengwa.”
Afterwards he settled in Lilongwe where he met Sir Ken Khuma, the unsung hero. This is the man who championed the music establishment in Malawi. He was the brains behind the laying down of one of the country’s pioneering studios, the I.Y Studio of Sir. Paul Banda.
He is the man who completed FitzGerald’s album at his Grassroots Studios which at the time was located in Akulenji Arcade in the heart of Capital Lilongwe.
In 2003 he went to places with Black Missionaries to promote his album for a year. He left when he was going out to record Kadundulu II while the Blacks were recording Kuimba IV.
After launching Kadundulu II with Limbani Banda in 2006 at Club Villa Desoul in Nyambadwe he decided to head back to his Mzuzu roots.
In 2009 he recorded Kadundulu III and the following year the DVD which he promoted on the wings of Lucius Banda and the Zembani band.
Now in 2012 he has managed to get a loan for musical equipment that will give weight to his Never Ending Chitipa Wailers and production of Kanduli IV is in progress
What inspiration can the budding musician ever desire, if not this FitzGerald Simfukwe story?
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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