Rasta is no Musician

It is fascinating how reggae became a musical genre that no one will ever divorce from the Rastafarian way of life.

On Monday May 14, 2012 the Kamuzu Day, I decided to go to Afro Motel where there was supposed to be a musical showcase that included the big names of the local music industry; The Black Missionaries and Skeffa Chimoto and the Real Sounds.

Unfortunately, there was no Skeffa and I am not sure if it was by design or coincidence.

Lately, names are being used to woo people to musical shows and much as I am not suggesting that the inclusion of Skeffa was a ploy to woo more patrons, the mere absence of a proper explanation as to why Skeffa was nowhere to be seen, leaves me with no any other better explanation.

Not that the list of other performers is something that is middle-of-the-road, considering how one would receive the news that the person he had paid their hard earned money to see will not be performing.

Anthony ‘Mr Cool’ Makondetsa who, I learnt on the day that because of his behaviour off the stage he is revered as ‘a doro’ strangely because of his innate humility, generosity and good heart is no musician of small size.

I have watched Yanjanani Chumbu performing so I was not a stranger to his well coordinated performance. I have the opportunity to sample performances from Khonzie Masimbe and Toza Matafale.

Masimbe is good and has only ‘he’ to blame if he will not make it big, but for Toza Matafale, apart from mimicking his half brother Evison Matafale with perfection, I wish we had experts in Malawi who should have worked on his body language.

Toza is a performer who fails to carry himself and gives you an awkward posture that make you realise it was better to only listen to his covers for his elder brother other than watching him.

I have no ‘beef’ with any of the above musicians that performed. I was surprised to find that The Blacks’ two key members, lead guitarist Takudziwani and his drummer brother Paul Chokani were not there.

Instead Amos Mlolowa was the drummer with his experience on the set for Impact Sound did ‘run things’ while the lead guitarist services came from Owen Hulera who is good at it as he has been plying it with Uhuru Band and Zigzaggers before.

In between came some guy who thinks is a musician because he is a Rasta and rightly so, he calls himself Ras P.D who I understand was being backed by an equally mediocre band called Black Syndicate.

There has been a tendency in most musical shows to have people with ‘Rasta Livity’ to try to perform because at the back of their mind they think since reggae is somehow the ‘Rasta thing’ then they have a right to play music.

On the day the performance by Ras P.D and his backing band robbed the building up of enthusiasm that had been generated by the other performers as patrons were waiting Anthony Makondetsa and The Blacks.

The vocal output by Ras P.D was a sham, and he was not even sure what he wanted to sing next, leading to loss of air in mid performance and almost choking himself to shame as a result.

All what the band was producing was uncoordinated noise that only showed their attempt to make it sound like music. It was even worse when they tried to do covers of songs from Jamaican reggae musicians like Burning Spear.

It was a total shame. It was like son of Roman Abromovich owner of Chelsea Football Club in London forcing his way into the team as a striker or midfielder merely because the team is owned by his father.

Unfortunately, life is not like this and this is why even when the Afro Motel Show was organised by Rasta Elder who is also Chief Somanje Makata of Ndirande he never played music on stage.

One of the highly respected Rasta Elder Mortimer Planno was only good at playing drums for Nyayabighi chant whose purpose is to facilitate grounations as Rasta worship.

This is by the way, the man who was Bob Marley’s Rasta teacher as he was also one of Rasta Livity’s ideological founders. He knew that reggae was something that is the heart of Rastafarie but never at any point would you see him grabbing the microphone from Bunny Wailer and started performing instead.

The art to play music is not meant for every Jack and Jill because it is, besides being a natural endowment, perfected by a dedicated practice.

What these people wearing natty dreads do at musical shows is a shame because by merely shouting that ‘Jah Rasatafarie’ as done by Tappa Zukie, Dr. Alimantado, Berres Hammond, Joseph ‘Culture’ Hills or any other reggae artists when performing, does not make them musicians.

Instead of wasting time, frustrating and shaming patrons due to their attempt to learn how to sing or play musical instruments, they need to approach those that have mastered this to train them.

Don’t learn in front of patrons who have parted with their hard earned money to be entertained.



2 thoughts on “Rasta is no Musician

  1. HI Gregory, this is your friend Chrispin Dambula. I follow you blog but I think this article has some flaws. Knowing you for so many years as a neutral analyst, I found this article to be too judgmental. What you are saying in the article is that some of the performers do not have skill worth to display on stage, which I think suggests you have a vantage position to decide who is better than the other. When early anthropologists began to encounter different races, they categorized them based on phenotype; they ranked them in order of intelligence, claiming that negloids were worse off while caucasoids were the best. But they were later challenged when it was discovered that all humans originated from one source, homo sapiens and therefore it was unfair to undermine other races. Other scholars further argued that European ethnographers had no authority to pass judgement on cultures of different races. This no gave rise to promotion of relativism and subjectivity, which is more influential in the postmordenic era today. While your point on use of names of popular artists as bait to attract more patrons elicits genuine concern, it is totally unacceptable to undermine those who performed at the show because in your opinion you think they lack skill. I would believe you if none of the patrons engaged in the music at the show by singing along or dancing, but the fact that at least somebody dances at a show might suggest that good music for somebody may not be good to another and it is for this very fact that I think it is not proper to make a generalized judgement when something does not please you unless there is very good an unquestionable grounding. But I like your blog and I enjoy everything you post. You are my man. I am proud of you Gregory. May be next time you can share with me more about Malawian music and how it is impacting on people’s view of life. I will be doing a project on music as an avenue of peace building and reconciliation and will be happy to use examples from my home country, Malawi. Take care!


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