Honouring your ‘Prophets’


The Catholic Church has gone against the old age maxim that ‘a Prophet is never honoured in his land’ when it organised an event on March 31, 2013 in none other place than Balaka itself where legends of the Alleluya Band were recognised.

If you must know, the Church was the first to introduce education and of course an alternative religious knowledge – Christianity – in Malawi. By way of spreading the Gospel the church realised that it would not introduce religious teaching to the ignorant and sick followers. It thus built schools and hospitals.

During church services it introduced choirs that would give some harmonic touch to the everyday readings as by just reading verses it was killing the spirit of attention in the services.

This in away resulted in even making the church go a mile further by organising bands that would use modern musical instruments.

In Malawi bands came and went, but the coming of Alleluya Band, especially when it perpetuated at the time that Malawi crossed a very vital political bridge – from single party rule to multiparty democratic dispensation – meant that it would carry its duty of becoming a pioneer of some musical renaissance.

The band hogged the lime light when late Pope John Paul (the second), visited the country in May 1989. I was privileged to have watched the band long before it became famous at Nyungwe Parish around this time because at the time I was staying ku Namaka also known as Kwa Kachingwe in Chiradzulu.

Then I was absorbed in the way it played and never imagined that a day like this would come when I would be here and write about them.

Let me not digress, my point here is that we have been bored by eulogies that pour out from pundits and self-acclaimed experts when we lose those we say were the best in the things that they used to do when living.

Such stories have been heard or were heard during the funerals of the legendary Robert and Arnold Fumulani, Michael Mukhito Phiri, Allan Namoko, Stonard Lungu etc.

Now at 50, when the church, not Musicians Association of Malawi, or Copy Right Society of Malawi not even the Ministry of Culture honours Paul Banda then it makes my mouth dry with astonishment for this exactly falls into the very thing that I beg to happen on this page day in, day out.

I have said before that this is the band that helped the country to realise that music can also be recorded and put in cassette albums and sold so that you and me can listen to it in the comfort of our homes at a time of our choice provided we had cassette players.

Two years ago I wrote this entry:

“Cry Our Beloved Alleluya Band

Everyone who is not aware of our modern music history, I mean history of digital music, will better be told from the beginning. The beginning therefore will be telling a different story if it does not start from Alleluya Band.

You know, it is not as if there were no bands that used to play before the multiparty dispensation; there were bands like the Likhubula Dance Band, which was backing Robert Fumulani, there were also Police Orchestra, the MBC Band and the Chichiri Queens and uncountable local artist.

There was also talent within the country but there was no knowledge of how one could put his talent into musical product through a recording studio.

Bands used to go to one and only place where the Malawian music was played and therefore this is where they used to listen to their music and for that reason, they knew that bands used to record there because there was nowhere else and this was at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation MBC studios.

The music was also being recorded merely for MBC airplay because it was being stored on reels, which was something that could not be taken on the market for sale?

At least it was only the emergence on the scene 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 happen with music.

They appreciated that independent studios can record elsewhere other than the MBC studios alone. They discerned that local music performed by local artists could also be put in a cassette and be made available for the take of those with money to, to enjoy it in the comfort of their homes.

There was a time when the sound that the pen once emitted from the drum was to the effect that whether one likes it or not Sir. Paul Banda ‘revolutionarised’ Malawi music.

This was the case because of this history and for Bwana Banda to achieve all his deserving accolades it was because he used Alleluya Band to launch his decorated musical career.

Lucius Banda needs no introduction to the world of music from these parts; he has marked his name; no, he has engraved his name in the hall of fame.

But at Zuc Lodge in Balaka last Sunday, the man who started it all ‘Father Mario Pacifici’ lined up Paul and Lucius Banda, Elias Kamoto, Charles Sinetre, Noel Makadali, Samson Chikoti, Vincent Kachingwe, Foster Chimangafisi, Mati Kalima, Pat ‘A Big’ Tung’ande and
Philemon Mwamadi and saluted them. How about that?

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About Gregory Gondwe - Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started practising journalism in 1993. Until March 31, 2012 he was regional editor and bureau chief for Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). Gregory is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma of Journalism and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He is also columnist for Malawi's first and oldest weekly, Malawi News. He can be contacted on gregorygondwe@gmail.com.
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