Kuimba 9, the Signature
Not that I have a huge budget for collecting music but I happen to be someone who has to be on my toes and ensure that I at least buy whatever music that matter whenever it is on the market.
This week I found myself back at Blantyre Market to buy Kuimba 9 which is packaged in a paper pouch with a beautifully-designed faces of Peter Amidu in between Chizondi Fumulani and Anjiru Fumulani. Amidu, who is donning Rasta colours, has his hands holding the Fumulani brothers.
The backside displays an artistic impression of the trio which is so good that it can make eyes of other painters gleam with tears of appreciation.
Enough on the cover; now to the main thing – the music. Reggae music in Malawi is synonymous with The Black Missionaries, famed as Ma Blacks.
Over the years I have been a critic of their failure to be courageous enough and toss away the template that founding leader Evison Matafale and his successor Musamude Fumulani created for them.
Last time I wrote about Kuimba 8 upon its release almost three years ago I was of the view that this was the same old skin which was only filled with new wine.
Now listening to Kuimba 9 I am pleasantly surprised by encountering what exactly I have wanted the Black Missionaries to become. If anything, Ma Blacks have to be commended for perpetuating their signature over the years.
Listening to the 13 tracks ‘Bwenzi Langa’, ‘Zonse Mchabe’, ‘Angochimwirabe’, ‘I am Not a Failure’, ‘Kwawo’, ‘Okondedwa’, ‘Tabwera’, ‘Absolom’, ‘Nkhondo’, ‘Wansanje’, ‘Mama Africa’, ‘Higher’, and an acoustic version of ‘I am Not a Failure’ you will appreciate how the boys have dished another quality work by their own standards.
Without beating about the bush this is an improvement from a faint Black Missionaries signature in Kuimba 8, although there is still a yawning gap in the English titles where the lyrical packaging still makes one regret the passing of Matafale and Musamude whose poetic lyrics could cudgel your brains as you tried to decipher what exactly they were trying to sing about.
There is also a Nyayabingi chant ‘Higher’ which starts with what is unmistakably the voice of Amidu who should have influenced its incorporation as since the passing on of Musamude, the remnants have been unwilling to come out clean and clearly and sing about Rastafari.
The acoustic version of ‘I am Not a Failure’ is a courageous imitation of what the fallen Reggae King Bob Marley demonstrated in the ‘Redemption Song’.
Which brings me to the question we have always ignored whenever judging Ma Blacks latest albums over the years – instrumentation. I would like to believe that compositions go together with the rhythm of the tracks. When the composer comes up with a track the producer has to ensure that he dishes out what is demanded. Let’s give credit to Ralph Ching’amba for ensuring that Ma Blacks remain and stay the course that their fore founders- started.
The reggae beat in all the tracks can stand any strenuous test one can attempt to make it undergo. This is something critics have not talked about over the years. The lyrical content might be a bit toned down but the instrumentation – thus the bass line, percussions, lead guitars, keyboards, drumbeat and the vocal strength – has remained at the pinnacle of the bars that separate Ma Blacks from the rest that play reggae in the country.
Kuimba 9 has taught me not to take it away from the boys. After the years that we interred the remains of Matafale and Musamude, seriously it will be utter jealousy to still claim they are still riding on the crest of the fallen leading pioneers.
We have many examples to look at to appreciate that Kuimba 9 shuts up some of us who have taken it as our mission to always criticise without offering alternative solutions.
If you read again what I am saying, you will appreciate that the English tracks needed some better hands. I would suggest that it would be no sin for Ma Blacks to involve those lyrists who can do better English stuff than trying to it all by themselves because it has proven that they are not masters at it.
Otherwise Kuimba 9 is indeed a 2013 Black Missionaries album which has to be in the possession of those that have loved Ma Blacks over the years.
Kuimba 9, the Signature