Granted, we all know Ethel Kamwendo Banda is talent personified. But what I, at least, did not know is the prowess that goes with her stage antics.
Last week I whined about how Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) gave me a raw deal. And much as I hinted that I did not lose much because the poor showing was compensated by performances of Ethel Kamwendo and Lloyd Phiri, what I did not mention was that Ethel had properly advertised for her show on Mother’s day.
Her BAF exhibit was the first time that I was watching her perform live and I needed a second go to validate her ability to do the acts that impressed me on the first occassion.
Well, one thing I think I benefitted from the show was buying a copy of her 13th Album entitled: “Ethel Kamwendo Banda Live at Comesa Hall”.
This is top quality piece of art despite a few ‘issues’ here and there.
For instance, there is a long sermon at the beginning by Ethel which risks putting off those that prefer the Word sang rather than being preached. But if you endure it to the end, you are going to be given the best of Malawi’s live music video collection.
The picture quality shows that Chipi Khonje producer and co-director has come of age.
And watching the DVD you would really appreciate that when one embarks on a project you just do not pick any other artisan for quality work. The acknowledgement section of the DVD says Cameras were handled by Edson Gunsalu, Lucius Funsani and Edwin Mushani who, in my view knew what they were doing.
They managed to capture the mood in the hall, they were able to present the whole Impact Band that backed Ethel and better still, they brought into being, better shots even when faced with compromising lighting as it is apparent the show was done at night.
Then there is live audio recording which was done by no lesser mortal than Jabbey Nkhwazi, the accomplished sound engineer.
The sound quality is top notch. Meaning; the Impact Band was tight in their performance. Unfortunately the only band members acknowledged as the DVD rolls to the end are Greshan Mokwena on Main Piano, Dickson Kankhunda on Keyboards, Amos Mlolowa on Drums and Omex Chimpeni on Percussion; viewers will be left wondering who the lead and bass guitarists are.
Blessings Banda, the director and Ethel’s spouse says they used 12Note Studios Equipment belonging to US based brother to Ethel, Jack Kamwendo. He says in fact the whole studio was planted at the Comesa venue of the show and this explains the top quality music in the DVD.
Gospel songbird Ethel Kamwendo Banda started from secular terrain before jumping ship to join the gospel fray, she has neither changed nor disappointed. One might argue that she found a more comfortable home with gospel music much more than she did with secular. But I would say she was born a musician.
Consider the age at which Ethel Kamwendo Banda started her music career and the influence from her elderly siblings in The Kamwendo Brothers Band and the stereotypes that used to haunt female musicians at the time she launched her career – or is it her secular career.
These factors failed to prepare her mentally or her mentality was all but botched-up and this is why her girlish credulity decided which line of music she had to belong to while maturity charted her gospel route eventually.
When she first decided to start Gospel Music, no one gave her chance that she could live up to the challenge; it was like a short holiday that would see her back to the Atelala Mundilinge ndi Maso fame. Or does she look at it as notoriety?
Both ways she has made a name; she was a known secular music diva and now she holds the crown of Gospel Music Queen. When she announced her conversion, I remember my colleague Alexander Newa writing that ‘Kamwendo, born into a Catholic family, let music decide the course of her life while her faith took the back seat.
Alexander (deceased) thought that there would be another Epiphany for Ethel when he wrote: “Ethel says she will launch her (first) gospel album, for which she yet has to decide a name…Pity there won’t be any of those famous, suggestive dance steps…perhaps until her next Epiphany.”
Now 13 years later she has 12 Gospel albums to her name.
I wish ‘Zander’ were alive to see how best Ethel has used the dance to serve God. The DVD which has tracks done in local Beni, Tchopa, Ingoma, Reggae, allows for some gyrating to gospel rhythms.
In fact starting from the number 7 track, ‘Alemekezeke’ there is a trio that has done it all.
In short, this is a must have DVD, like Blessings confided in me, the quality work has found a huge market in Tanzania, I wonder why I bought it at K500, its worthy much more than that.