Chikondi Phinda’s Reason in Music

There have been times on these pages where I have chastised some radio personalities for allowing themselves to be bribed by musicians so that they can give their music some airplay.

Perhaps one thing that I now realize I have to do is to try to live the life of a radio presenter, who is sometimes referred to as an announcer, and find out what goes into their heads for them to utilize music.

At first, I had a chance to listen to Chikondi Phinda, whom I learnt is only 25 years old, but you would mistaken her for an elderly lady, more so with her lady-deep voice, and stuff that she talks about.

I decided to face her and find out what goes on in her head when she is ensuring that when you and I are switching on to radio one of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) we are not met with dead air.

She says there are several dynamics that she put into consideration when she is playing music. Chikondi says music that she will play when she is on a 12 midnight to 6 AM shift, cannot be the same she will play when she is on the 6PM to 12 midnight shift.

‘You cannot just wake up at 6AM and start playing Rhumba music which is heavy and danceable’.

Music has to be selected based on the theme under discussions, she says, and this means music at MBC for example has to demand a slightly bigger budget for her radio’s music library to have all that kind of music.

But she says it is funny how things are done in Malawi. Apparently radio stations do not have a deliberate budget on acquiring music. Basically it is up to the presenter to source her or his music through the internet or going in the music shops to buy with their own money.

On a larger scale, especially with local music, the artists themselves take music to radio stations for promotional purposes.

Nonetheless, by the end of the day, the listener out there, gives no damn where and how the radio station gets its music. All they want is to get 100 percent musical entertainment.

With numerous musicians and music laying about in the radio stations, you would expect the radio presenter to suffer some form of headache to ensure that the music really does really the trick to magnetize the audience to your dial.

I wanted to know from Chikondi Phinda what music she would give her listeners and why she would do such choices.

Within 30 minutes of her choice of music she chose 7 artists she will play and I was shocked, at her age, she has no R’n’B stuff.

She says if she is on air today, she would play Kondwani Simenti because he is a new kid on the gospel block who would move the stiffest of bodies with his well thought music. She is also thinks Simenti has defied his newness by breaking even, merely because his music is worship chants and full of religious anecdotes.

The other artist she says she will play at every opportune time is Peter Mawanga because he is a serious lyricist who fuses it well with unmistaken African beat.

Chikondi will play Lulu because he has a voice; but she will play Lucius Banda because he is the musician of all seasons. His music talks about you and the rest of the people in a bus. If you will talk about orphanage, infidelity in marriages or affairs, politics, business, and what have you, you will have a Lucious Banda track to go with it.

And yes, political music from Lucius she will play. Don’t be surprised Chikondi is daughter to a long time member of parliament from Chikhwawa, the late Thomas Phinda.

Chikondi will also play Oliver Mtukudzi because as a Sena from Chikhwawa she has a connection with the Mbira music of Zimbabwe.

She says their music in Lower Shire has an identity similar to that of Tuku music. She says play any Lower Shire artist like Agorosso, Stanley Nthenga, Joseph Tembo and even some tracks of Katelele Ching’oma; surely it will click with Tuku.

Lastly Chikondi will play Lucky Dube and Bob Marley because being a girl who comes from a family of 11 and she is perched on 10, one cannot rule out the influence of elder siblings especially when they are brothers.

She says her brothers have had a major influence on her type of music.

‘Imagine, you will find even my mother, a retired agriculturist, singing Culture’s ‘Ganja Time’ while cleaning the home or washing dishes due to this influence.’

She says much as she now likes Dube’s unity themes in most of his music, she likes Bob Marley now on her own terms because of some love messages his music carry.

Now musicians, know what our music presenters love in our music, do we need to do more?


Responding to Bob Marley Vs Culture

Drumming Pen always has overwhelming feedback. They will be times like today where I will bring such feedback to the fore for the rest of its followers to appreciate how others out there appreciate the work that is done here.
Here below is a response to an entry that compared Legendary Bob Marley and Joseph ‘Culture’ Hills which was written by Richard Likukuta
“Your entry in the Malawi News edition of May 12 to 18 raises an interesting debate that compels me to join.
I can imagine how tense the situation was, as the two groups tried to outdo each other, as to who is superior between Marley (Bob Marley)and Joseph Hill (A.K.A Culture).
To begin with, I strongly feel that there is reason to have a brief background of the two musicians first (before we compare their music) which may eventually separate the two if at all.
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, while Joseph Hill was born on January 22, 1949. This means that Marley was four years older than Hill. They were both song writers and lead vocalists of their respective groups. Their music is mostly influenced by the social issues of their home land and gives voice to the specific political and cultural connection of Jamaica.
From the above we can agree that the two were age mates. Marley having started his musical career in the early 60’s while Hill in the early 70’s. Almost an eight to ten year period separates the two.
Both Marley and Hill were strong proponents of Rastafarai taking their music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the International scene.
One fact that needs to be made clear is that Bob Marley was the third world’s first pop superstar. He remains the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae.
Just like Marley, Hill was a devoted worshiper of His Imperial Majesty Haille Selassie I and a member of the Rastafai movement. Indeed Hill’s nickname, ‘’keeper of Zion gate’’ reflects his vaunted position as one of reggae’s and Rastafari’s greatest voices.
Hill had received a number of honours including an induction into the Jamaican Reggae Walk of Fame and a 2005 Independence Award.
In 2006 the group (Culture) continued to draw good reviews, especially for their performance at ‘Bob Marley 61st Birthday Celebration’ in Ghana.
Joseph Hill and Culture developed a reputation as a performing group after a performance at the ‘One Love Peace Concert‘ in 1978, and was soon regularly touring around the world. In recent years the group continued to perform at least one hundred concerts each year. Hill was a presence on stage – part deejay as he directed his band to reconfigure songs on stage and part teacher as he commented on Jamaican history and current political issues.
What made Culture unique was that Hill always tempered his messages by having a smile on his lips and a dance in his feet. He was never without a good joke at hand.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller called him a “towering representative of our homegrown idiom, reggae’, and lauded his “gritty melodious voice, keen ear for harmony, earthy humour, stylish dress and electrifying performances”.

“Joseph Hill, your train is bound for glory, rest well, my inspiration,” Prime Minister Miller intoned passionately.
Significantly, Hill was not content to let Culture be a mere oldies act. In his last years he had recorded duets with Buju Banton and Anthony B, and demonstrated a wish to be faithful to his roots and a contemporary artist.
Unfortunately Marley never had the chance to showcase his stage masterly having succumbed to cancer on May 11, 1981 aged only 36.A lot of Marley songs have been re-recorded by different artists to add a modern taste and they come out ever electrifying.
In 1999 Times Magazine chose Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Exodus as the greatest reggae album of the 20th century. In 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Life Time achievement award. A statue was inaugurated, next to the national stadium on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston Jamaica to commemorate him.
In 2006, the State of New York renamed a portion of Church Avenue from Remsen Avenue to East 98th Street in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn “Bob Marley Boulevard”.
Marley’s songs have remained popular many years after his death, even Joseph Hill himself has played a number of Bob Marley’s songs during his shows including in Seychelles and Shrewsbury.
In his album ‘Lion Rock’, Hill pays tribute to the fallen hero in the song ‘A tribute to the O.M’ and ‘Psalms of Bob Marley’ in the album ‘Good things’.
Bob Marley ranks among both the most popular and the most misunderstood figures in modern culture.
Hope the above explanations can to an extent, tell who was the great among the two.”

Dear Richard,
Thank you so much for this enlightening write up. I enjoyed the comparison and I hope it helps our colleagues who were arguing who is the best between the two.
Please do not hesitate to come to our aid again.
Best Regards
Prof. Zungwala

Blantyre’s Music Patronage

Symon and Kendall, Hax Momba and Sally Nyundo early this week, to be precise, on Sunday, descended on Blantyre. They travelled all the way from Lilongwe to give fans in the Southern Region a different sample of music.

But lo and behold! Only a handful people turned up for a show that was demanding K700 per head. A few metres away at the Afro Motel, Skeffa Chimoto and his band were playing as well and their venue was packed with people that had parted ways with a thousand kwacha.

And the explanation that emanated was that the three stars combined failed to wrestle the magnetism that Skeffa now holds because among many reasons, they are yet to get people’s confidence.

I was one of the few guys that attended the show, basically, because I am always here, week in, week out and I wanted us to discuss the other kind of music that was brought by the Lilongwe based artists.

There are a number of reasons that one would put into consideration though.

The first one is that this is a newly established band and therefore they have to make a name first.

However, this can easily be shot down considering that Symon and Kendall, Hax Momba, Grecian Mwambo and Sally Nyundo are not small musicians in the country.

A number arts writers and radio presenters that I met at the show also were of the view that, the beginning is always difficult.

They say when Skeffa Chimoto was starting as a man with his band; he never had nice stories to tell about patronage, because just a handful would turn up for his shows.

The other thing is that it looks like fans, especially, in Blantyre have cut a special place for some musicians that even when they are still churning out mediocrity, people will still troop to their shows because they have a history of how best they can perform sometimes.

But perhaps I also need to say here from the onset that people that never patronised this show last Sunday missed a lifetime entertainment package delivered by the three without stint or limit.

Well, on the scale of performance of 1to 10, the five member band performed superbly better when they did instrumental covers for Jamaican reggae pieces, when they were readying themselves for the main act.

But when it mattered most, where there was need to perhaps coax more patronage, more so when there were doubting Thomases that stood outside the entrance, debating whether to trek down to Skeffa’s show or enter and sample what the Lilongwe artists had brought, they failed miserably.

Some shabbily looking lad, who I found later, is the backing vocalists for the band, were the one who took the stage first.

His performance was awful and it got even worse because he was attempting to do covers of local, African, American and European artists without getting any patrons interested, while others felt it was repugnant enough for their taste were left with no choice but to leave the venue, those that remained behind busied themselves with some .

Signs of a serious and entertaining afternoon started showing when Grecian Mwambo took over the stage.

But it was Hax Momba who burnt the stage with his roots reggae performance. Given chance Hax Momba could become another stage wizard as his performance was enthusing, not to mention the sudden change of the band back to the star studded performance.

The feeling that this outfit is merely a reggae band soon evaporated when Symon and Kendall rose to the occasion when their brand of music which is dancehall and traditional beat.

Then Sally Nyundo as usual sent the handful patrons spell bound with a performance that was spirited.

The performance of the three artists is what I also would like to dwell on for real as is was oozing humility in abundance.

The artists are not very poor and with around ten patrons that turned up for the show, it was easy for them to return the K7000 to them and postpone the show.

They, however, never took this road and more stirring up was the fact that they never gave the few patrons half-baked performance. The performance to say the least was selfless.

Everyone that came was feeling sorry for those that had not turned up for the show because they had missed entertainment in full package.

It is a pity that patronage by the Blantyre fans should be as selective as disappointing as was the case on Sunday.

There has to be a spirit within residents that we need to support the efforts our artists are putting up to bring us entertainment.

Imagine if one day musicians decided to stop releasing albums as well as giving us live performances as they do. Would we still be the same people? Have you ever seen how an entertainment starved society behaves?


Black Missionaries Stuck in the Past

Whether one likes it or not, the signs are all out for all of us to see. The Black Missionaries is stuck in the past. It has a history, has a wobbling present, but has no future.

It is for the love of the mission mooted by fallen Reggae King Evison Matafale and his ‘Simon Peter’ in Musamude Fumulani that I will try to jerk the remnants into realization that things ought to be moving forward.

One would argue that this is incorrect by looking at how The Black Missionaries, fondly shortened as ‘The Blacks’ are still managing to pull large crowds at their shows.

But do you remember when they last released an Album? Do you remember how that album was done where it sounded like their past work? And how it has miserably [by their standards] faired on the market?

The last two weeks I have been attending their shows to see if what I was observing was indeed correct. I was disappointed that indeed The Blacks seems stuck and devoid of the kind innovativeness that pushed them to eminence when Matafale and Musamude were around.

The Beatles is one of the world’s musical bands that were revered by millions. The Beatles changed attitudes to popular music in the world and no wonder at one time it was considered the global trend-setter.

But all this did not stop public protest after publication of a quote from John Lennon’s remarks about Christianity. Lennon, besides being The Beatles member is a musician of no less influence.

Likewise, back home here fans are supposed to demand from their artists what they want them to become, because their reason of sticking around in business is to ensure that they give the fans the quality stuff.

Quality is attached to The Blacks music because of the pedigree which the current crop is failing to sustain. If another band, full of novelty can appear on the scene, the band cannot resurrect the guiding ghosts of Evison and Musamude to compete with such a band.

The other argument is that perhaps Anthony Makondetsa should have headlined the band to give it a kick in terms of sustenance.

At the moment the band might be riding on its popularity but if it has no artistic arsenal to keep it going, definitely what we might be seeing is a band that is on its death bed and only surviving on a life supporting machine – which is the past where it has strong roots.

The funny part with roots is that it nourishes the good food the leaves are making for it, and this is where The Blacks has to move quickly.

There was an argument that the challenge I am posing before the band was already sang against in the track ‘Ndiimba Ndekha’ by the Blacks.

But honestly this is one of the tracks that tell you there is a lot that is lacking in the current Blacks grouping.

I may not be a musician or a poet of top drawer but I’m not too daft to deduce that art work like music, poetry, painting, sculpture and curios are done with the purpose of putting across a certain message to the intended audience.

The message can or most of the time is put in a “language” best understood by all. Over concealing the intended message is therefore not only shooting oneself in the foot but short-changing the audience too. It also explains that you are as blank as the music you are churning out.

While Anjiru Fumulani the leading voice of the current crop of the Blacks has arguably great talent, the artist should learn the art of clarity.

I see no reason why one should be biting their heads trying to decipher and understand lyrics of a song sang in one’s own mother language.

Anjiru, and indeed the rest of his sort, should learn to sing in chords and not in codes.

Unlike their forbearers who were moving with time, because of lack of creativity the current crop of The Blacks are failing to move with the current trends. If Matafale were alive, imagine what he would have sung about.

The ‘cruel’ administration of President Bingu wa Mutharika and perhaps his subsequent death. If Matafale died in the hands of the politicians, what would have become of him?

Don’t read me wrongly, where what I am saying might be construed as instigating the band to be on top of composing protest music for the regimes that are in power, no.

But do you remember what happened in the US on September 11, 2001? And did Matafale the founder of the Black Missionaries just sat on his laurels? No, he released the timeless ‘Time Mark’.

As a band which Matafale branded with such stature, The Black Missionaries should be in the forefront in coming out quick to be in step with the current events. After all this was the mission of the band’s forbearer.

It will be a pity if the Black Missionaries will fail the mission because they are still enjoying the honeymoon sparked by the successes of Matafale and Musamude.