Who is Cleaning Katelele Ching’oma?

You remember some months ago I hinted that Katelele Ching’oma is a gem that needs to be picked, brushed and polished for all to appreciate its glimmer.
How disheartening that, apparently, those that picked this gem are failing to polish it perfectly, so that its true and illuminating colours can be appreciated.
I know you are wondering, but just go in our streets today and you will discover that Katelele Ching’oma is in the league, which – by Malawian standards – is an ivy one. This is the league where Lucius Banda, Skeffa Chimoto and Black Missionaries rule supreme.
Agree or disagree but unfortunately, and of course fortunate to others, this is the true reality in our ‘Street of Fame’.
But now, if you look at how Lucius Banda, Skeffa Chimoto and The Blacks are doing in this street, you’ll discover that Katelele Ching’oma – not out of his own making – is made to offer this large following some half baked ware.
Stage endurance, resilience, magnanimity, magnetism and studio-like-near-perfection delivery is yet to be tested for Katelele Ching’oma.
I know that by our standards, Lucius Banda is a stage grandmaster; Skeffa Chimoto is a powerhouse when it comes to stage performance.
I have discovered that The Blacks, for long were ‘a stage-perfect-robot’ where their performance earned itself a reputation of a live CD.
They had, until three Sundays ago, a predictable pattern where you would know that after this track, then they will play this one; or that at one time Peter Amidu will say these words and it was fast becoming predictably boring.
Now they claim to be transforming and I am yet to bear witness to this.
But one thing for sure is that even in their predictability, they were faultless. They still retained the same quality also present in the live performances of Lucius Banda and Skeffa Chimoto.
Now considering that Katelele Ching’oma is now in this league, I wonder if the same would be said in the same breath of him.
Of course, other quarters have grumbled that Lucius Banda is exploitative, but this is to a large extent a gluttonous and greenly induced reaction. We have a list of successful names that have passed through Lucius Banda’s hands.
Lucius Banda has tried to assist the Ching’oma lad by incorporating him on their live performing acts but nothing fruitful has come out so far.
At one time he was supposed to perform during Lucius Banda’s northern region tour. Patrons expected him that Friday evening at Key Lounge and the waiting continued till afternoon at Boma Park the following day.
Zembani Band would have been the preeminent outfit where he would have tried what Rasta would call ‘Levicate’ his studio toils, people have fallen in love with.
I remember Joseph ‘Phungu’ Nkasa’s tracks that had hit ‘red’ on scale of popularity and fame with numbers like ‘Zosayina-sayina’ (sic) could only come in CD and tape form.
There was no live performance for the tracks. One reason was that Nkasa was yet to be tried and tested for live performance and when he indeed did, he was found wanting.
The band which was backing him brought him more embarrassment and shame as their beat could not even come close to Nkasa’s studio version.
But watching Nkasa perform now with Zembani Band backing him, you really would have to be a fastidious fault finder to have issues with him.
Now this is the reason I strongly believe Katelele Ching’oma needed this opportunity.
What has now even stolen verve out of Katelele Ching’oma, the musician, is his latest video called ‘Ndirinawo mwayi’.
If you are just listening to the tracks; brilliant stuff, but if you so happen to watch the videos you will have to endure a bleeding heart because this exactly ‘new wine in old wineskins’.
Video Production for music albums is not a small project. And this can be proven in this Katelele Ching’oma production. It is one where they just picked a Camera man and started off for Nsanje via Khonjeni in Thyolo where most of the shooting for over ten songs were done.
Now imagine looking at the same people dancing the same styles, standing at the same places for over ten songs.
Even if you were to fall for the songs but surely you will get fed up with the pictures. Pattering of legs and waist gyratory antics for both women and male dancers, including Katelele himself is a common stay in the production.
Whoever is assisting Katelele Ching’oma with these productions must ask, consult and seek direction. Ironically those that have done such a shoddy job are called ‘Given Productions’. And I bet the giving ought to ooze quality.
In one of the tracks Katelele Ching’oma peddles himself as he sings: “Katelele Ching’oma ngolangiza, ndipo iye sadzasiya kulangiza” (Katelele Ching’oma advises and he will not stop advising).
I guess a good advisor has a good ear to take heed of advices going his way.


Fans or Musicians: Who is the King?

Yes, this is the question I ask when I patronize musical shows that have a several musicians lined up to perform.

There is just too much importance that performers attach to themselves at the expense of their patrons who are the kingmakers.

You find that in when their career is in the crack of dawn artist starts by failing to attract patronage at their live shows like was the case with Skeffa Chimoto.

Then before they know it they started pulling crowds and discover that they are no longer artists that people can ‘play’ with anyhow because they are now filthily rich.

It becomes disappointing when bands like Black Missionaries for example, will headline a musical show that will start at Civo Stadium at 1 PM, for example, and by 5PM the show is scheduled to be over.

But while the curtain raisers will play until 4:40PM the main act will only come a few minutes to the end and give excuses that the venue owners are saying it is over.

While at times the venue owners are sometimes irritant, as is the case with Mzuzu Hotel’s Boma Park, but to a large extent, the musicians themselves are fond of giving patrons a raw deal.

It is strange because it is at these places where promotions for several artists have been done.

Soldier Lucius Banda would take budding artists on his national wide tour and usually by the time they move from Nsanje to Chitipa, Mchinji to Salima the artist is a household name and could now stand with their heads high.

At times, live show venues are the best promotional stages than some media outlets. Take for example The Blacks again, at their show at Ozone Leisure Centre in Machinjiri on Sunday this week; they decided to turn the event into a promotional work for their Kuimba 9 which is in the offing.
It was here where people saw them perform ‘Kwawo’ and ‘Tabwera’ new tracks that are set to be hits in the said album.

I am particularly happy that what I complained about the band has finally started bearing fruits because it was at this show where Band leader Anjiru Fumulani acknowledged that people have been asking them to be more innovative with the beat and message and they are doing just that in the forth coming Kuimba album.

Let me not digress, as my question still is who is the main act; between the musician and the fan who patronise musical shows?

I remember fallen Music knowledge ‘stockroom’ Mayeso Chirwa once pointed out that “Standard performance duration for professional live bands is 45 minutes.”

He said live band performances are thus sold or bought in 45 minutes sets. And that if an artist plays for 90 minutes he/she gets money for two sets.

He said this is not laziness… It has regulation time for realistic viewers’ attention span and players’ mileage and resilience test.

Now for a reviewer and critic like me I have a problem yes, when an artist will play from 1PM to 5PM but if that’s what they have announced will be the duration of their act, then I have a very big problem when it is not done honestly.

I know that an artist is aware that they cannot last a mile; if indeed they play more than 45 minutes. I have tried to sing for just 10 minutes and the way the whole body responds at least gives a picture of what singing is all about.

But it becomes a raw deal to find that an artist will show up early because he is dashing to another show and this drains the musicians even more.

You find that a few years down the road the golden voice has been replaced by some unrecognisably croaky, gruffy, throaty, and guttural voice that takes away the artist’s mettle.

You find that the musician that people used to know is now playing his own music but patrons almost pelts him or her with stones thinking that he or she is a copycat.

The other raw deal that artists will give patrons is where they will imbibe all available alcoholic beverages before going on stage.

I remember one artist, who is now a born again gospel artist, was hauled to the stage completely sloshed in the belief that he will regain conscious right on stage and perform, but instead it was more embossing to attract more patronage as he becomes an embarrassment.

Such wanton taking of beer and yes, smoking, also compromise the voice of musicians; that voice that catapulted them to stardom turn them into laughing stocks once it is distorted.

Now, unless the musicians realise that patrons or the fans are the Kings they will be punctual and even take care of themselves to retain the voices that made their names and ensure that people are not given a raw deal.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

‘Several Musical Nothings’

Some ‘musical nothings’ is what I want to talk about today; some ‘musical nothings’ about musical composition as well as video production in the Gospel zone of our music industry.
It is all I want to dwell on this week, not that it is an urgent matter that requires immediate attention, but just some serious observations that require no or any action from anyone ‘To Whom It May Concern’.

Thoko Katimba’s Musical Stories

I want to start discussing compositions of Gospel artist Thoko Katimba who, I learn very late that is a man like.

If you listen to Katimba’s composition you will realize that such compositions can neither be mistaken for a paean nor a canticle.

I am not an authority to dismiss Thoko’s music writing style because apparently it looks like it has clicked with most of those that have ended up to love his music.

I would not want to dwell on what music scholars will say about bringing a novel in a track, but Katimba has managed to find it easy to bring a whole novel just in one song within an album of several tracks.

There was a time when I discussed over here some years ago that Joseph Nkasa’s one track in his album can be split into ten tracks that can complete an album.

Meaning; in the ten songs that Nkasa compiles into an album, know that there is a potential of creating 100 songs out of them. Again meaning, Nkasa is so talented that he is able to compress or is it abridge 10 albums into one.

Now, Thoko Katimba will tell you a story about ‘Tagwiranji’, ‘Ndizayimbabe’, ‘Banja Lokondwa’, ‘Ndili ndi Mafunso’, ‘Dziko ndi Lovuta’, ‘Undilo’ or ‘Mlendo’ where he would explain the set up of the story, the plot and its climax and anticlimax as novel critics will tell you.

He would tell a story in these songs and correlate it with what Jesus is expecting from those that believe in him.

Of course the stories in Thoko Katimba’s songs are unlike some verbose that is packed in Joe Gwaladi’s tracks which leaves you more confused than before you had listened to his music as it tells you more about the trouble brewing in the artist’s head than the message that his music is trying to emit.

Most song writers prefer to take the poetic route when composing, more so because the prose is not wordy and besides the instrumentation, they tend to create some catchy ‘chorus’

By the end of the day, what it means is that only those that have the whole time in the world can sit down and listen to his songs.

I cannot cast not even cast the smallest of stones to change the musical approach of Katimba because he has chosen to present it in this way, but I can only advise him to try to reduce story telling in his next albums to please even the fastidious ears that faults anything and everything that is regarded as music.

Vain Glorious Favoured Sisters

I wish I had better way of explaining this but, I guess since these are religious issues I am going to be pardoned in the spirit of Biblical teachings.

Favoured Sisters are a favourite of amany gospel lovers and secular patrons alike.

I don’t intend to dwell more on how or why they decided to produce video songs that are a demonstration of vain Glory than it is for praising and Worship God.

There is more like a fashion show or a fashion Television in the way the two favoured sisters carry out their business when they are appearing in their gospel tracks of the two.

The choice of shooting the videos must also show that those behind its production are innovative. People have been given a raw deal sometimes as artists believe people will still patronize the crap they mistaken for gospel music because it is carrying God or Jesus’ name.
Now let me reproduce views of one reader for Drumming Pen:

Reader’s View

Hie Prof. Zungwala,
First and foremost I would like to inform you that I follow the Drumming Pen with keen interest. It’s a very catching column.
Keep it up.

My plea however is to request you [with due respect] to tackle on why many bands/solo artists are forsaking the use of wind-instruments.

Back in the days we had musicians who didn’t believe in coming up with mediocre music. Saxophones, trumpets etc were always available live on stage. It’s no longer the case now. The majority of these new crop musicians are comfortable doing it ‘the easier- way.’

The question is: Why?

Listen to “Too Many Rains Ago” by Kalimba, “Zonse Zimene Za-Kamuzu Banda” by MBC Band & Chichiri Queens and you will notice what I mean.
We need more Dan Sibales in our musical circles. Progress is not just about making strides—it’s about making positive strides.