Is ‘Chinamuluma Chakuda’ Skeffa’s new ‘Thriller’?


Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit ‘Thriller’ has had such a profound effect on popular culture so much that it has been named “a watershed moment for the music industry” worldwide for its unprecedented merging of film-making and music. Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the “most successful music video” in the world. 

So ‘Thriller’ is used as a yardstick to gauge the popularity of music worldwide.

Skeffa Chimoto released four tracks from his yet-to-be launched Chikondi album.

A few days after the four tracks were loaded on www.malawi-music.com they went viral as close to 7,000 people have already downloaded them; not to mention of the many visits. Due to some unscrupulous characters that downloaded the songs and started selling them in the streets of Lilongwe, the website was forced to block further downloading of the songs until when the album is officially launched later this month.

So is ‘Chinamuluma Chakudathe Nabola Moyo star’s new ‘Thriller’? Or is all that razzmatazz a mere appeal to the ear of the womenfolk who have gone nuts with it?

The menfolk are saying this is not even a track over which to lose sleep because Skeffa has done better tracks before.

Well, I had not listened to the track until Wednesday this week and, honestly, I am surprised that it has so shaken the industry.

To start with, apart from showing the world once again that he is an accomplished lyrist, there is nothing extraordinary that this particular track has achieved.

Like I have written recently on these pages about Lulu, Skeffa has set for himself standards he has to beat every time he drops a new album.

Because of that reputation, even if today he decides to re-do the Nabola Moyo album with a different message but the same beat, people will still fight for it because he has made a name and everyone attaches quality to his name.

The seven-minute ‘Chinamuluma Chakuda’ track starts with two abridged refrains. One of the refrains has managed to act as a bridge to the main body where the lyrics carry stories, experiences and disappointments that seem to have plagued many love lives in the country.

It is, of course, a complex track since it has another hidden bridge which has really achieved what bridges tend to achieve in songs. Just when you start thinking the rest is predictable, Skeffa takes you some place where he encourages his sister not to lose heart due to a broken heart.

For example, the track starts with this chorus and check the imagery in the title:

Siwamatama/siwonyada/alibe mwano/koma akuwopa/poti anampusitsa ena/chinamuluma chakuda/amuchulukira ndi mantha/lero chakuda chiri chonse akumangothawa

And while one expects him to go straight to the first verse, he goes into another one which leaves the question on whether the opening is merely a pre-chorus, sometimes known as a ‘build’ or a ‘climb’.

Then comes the main chorus:

Sikuti alibe chikondi/ayi amakonda/sikutiso safuna kukondedwa/ayi ndithu amafuna/koma chinamuluma chakuda/olo awone khala amathawa

And, indeed, the subsequent verses show his ingenuity as he describes situations in failed relationships and ably escalates continued conflict before moving the story-line forward by keeping the listener engaged to get to the bottom of it which gets advisory and soothing.

But going back to the question: why is ‘Chinamuluma Chakuda’ a major attraction? I would safely say the song has tried to capture the challenges that the society faces with especially with the shredding of the social fabric.

It looks like many relationships are afflicted by immoralities such as lies, cheating, disappointments, you name it. It is like there was something everyone wanted to talk about in that song; it was like there was need for an emotional release and this track has just achieved that purpose.

Because a large section of the society has identified with the issues the track has captured, it is not surprising that it has avowed many, thus the kind of reception it has attracted.

Drumming Pen awaits the launch of the album for a comprehensive review but, meantime, although I would not settle for this track as the best out of the four so far released, I still doff my hat to the star who gave us phenomenal tracks like ‘Mumutenge Mwana Uyu’. 

Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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Malawi-Music.com Mea Culpa


Lack of knowledge has proven to be poisonous on more than one occasion. Take my entry last week for example where I doubted the website: http://www.malawi-music.com .
After I took time to browse the site and scoffed at the efforts that had more musicians complaining than complementing, I lost my footing by not taking the issue back to them. But this was all after they had brought the situation to my attention.
Looking at the whole concept now after the tolerant and accommodating brains behind it looked for me and walked me through the whole idea behind the ‘Music from Malawi’ or Nyimbo Zachimalawi Project which runs the website, I am forced to eat a humble pie.
Now what I thought was just a façade with which to exploit local musicians, turns out to be one way the owners of the site came up with in their efforts to create a window for the first serious online music market and promotional platform for Malawi music.
Listening to the two youthful brains behind the project elaborate the vision and describe to me the five-year-long history the project has endured before emerging unto simmering height, it has but converted me into a follower. Their earnest gasping for air and fame in the industry brings to light the nature of resilience and increases my awareness on how such a project can quickly become trendy presenting a bright future for our musicians.
The challenge that I observed is that the lads are not that much into publicity, a fact which has been their own undoing. I mean last week I almost achieved that.
One thing I learnt is that these are not just the kind of boys with no vision that we have seen coming and leaving the music industry without leaving any mark. They are far removed from the misplaced breeze in a blizzard that our industry is highly criticized for.
The website, I now realize, is the best thing that has happened to Malawi music especially when you consider the personal sacrifice, conviction, dedication and passion that has been invested in it.
This is the first web site of its kind where musicians are now able to sell and distribute their music online where consumers can purchase for a small price of £0.99 (approximate K612.81 at the current exchange rate)a song and £10.00 (K6,190.00) for an album.
So far there are just about seven artists who are selling music on the site and they include Lucius Banda, The Black Missionaries, Anthony Makondetsa, Limbani Simenti, Young Kay and soon Skeffa Chimoto.
All songs that are sold are in full length and of CD quality in mp3 format while albums will be zipped, in a single file with all mp3 files inclusive and details on how to unzip the files.
At the moment website visitors are able to stream and download free promotional Malawian music on the site.
Unlike promotional songs that contain the Malawi Music promotional tag, all the songs and albums that will be sold on the site will not have that.
Musicians who sign sale agreements with the firm are assured of transparent transactions as the buying processing is through the website which will be supported by Google checkout cart also known as Google Wallet.
This is a fast and secure checkout process that helps new customers by allowing them to buy from the site quickly and easily with a single account from Google and musicians or their agents will be able to check how transactions are operating.
Google Wallet keeps track of all transactions and operates bank transfers on behalf of Malawi Music.
The young brains behind the transaction arranged things in such a way that through credit/debit card set ups they can soon enter deals with phone mobile companies to use their money transaction facilities.
They say since Malawian musicians are uploading their songs on international websites like Reverberation and YouTube it would do us well to have a more centralized access point.
There are currently 291 artists’ profiles, including the ones whose music is on sale.
The website is custom designed as it does not use free and open source platforms like that by Joomla or Word press as its technicians are UK and US trained and qualified software engineers.
The duo also has a marketing and sales guru who was able to help us get to learn what the Malawi Music website is all about.
All that is required is to make musicians understand what http://www.malawi-music.com is all about and I guess I am now in a better position to respond to the queries as I have been schooled on the project myself.
So far musicians whose songs are on sale on the site have already started getting their money. By the way, under the agreement, after the sales Malawi Music gets 30 percent while the musician gets 70 percent; how nice can it get?
And for the first time, unlike our radio stations which play all kinds of music without regard to quality, Malawi Music scrutinises each and every song before it can be offered the promotional platform. How about that?

Lulu fails to beat self


By the end of the day, they say every artist is his or her own competition. There is therefore need to raise the bar every time an artist releases a new album.

Therefore, from the onset, I have to pass my verdict; Lawrence ‘Lulu’ Khwisa’s latest album entitled ‘Ndakudziwa’ is a kind of product that has only added a number to his bibliography.

And, I dare say, such addition ends there.

When you are Lawrence Khwisa and you have four albums like ‘Mbambande’, ‘Kumalembe’, ‘Sindilora’, and the latest one mentioned above, all it means is that people have an idea of what kind of music you can give them.

Therefore, any time you think it’s time for a new album, you really need to scratch deeper in the hat of tricks for new magical display. You have to surprise them with something they never imagined you are capable of achieving.

This is why Lulu’s latest album is, by his set standards, one of his ordinary works.

Besides throwing the question of who is a gospel artist into some fresh debate, with this album, there is still familiarity with the love theme. It presents right unto our laps the same Lulu who has been appearing to us over the years that he has been composing and recording for us.

It is like Lulu has changed from a black suit to a brown one and, depending on your favourite colour, you might say he looks more handsome in the new brown suit than he was in the black one. The painful truth, however, remains that he is still Lulu.

What I am looking for is a kind of Lulu in a short and a casual shirt perhaps, and this album to me has failed to give me that.

Yes, funky hair, funny stage theatrics when he was performing alongside Lucius Banda when production of the album was in session, the new album is still full of familiar energy and verve. But it still makes it easy for art ‘crooks’ to forge his signature and get away with it.

If you ask me, two tracks ‘Mtima Wakana’  and ‘Ndzalera’ that uproot the difficult-to-please audience from their seats if performed, are only able to do so because of the new lyrical chant over the same ‘old skin’.

‘Ana mbiri-mbiri-bwanji ndzalera’ is an exaggerated cry of an acceptance from a man, ready to take impossible responsibility where he stands to cuddle and coddle a woman with mere words so that she falls for his love trickery.

The effect of this track has metric measurement that tempts male audience to borrow it and try to use it while the female audience is left hanging on emotional ropes with astonishment as it is astounded that there are still men out there who can travel this mile of ‘Ana-mbiri-mbiri-bwanji ndzalera’ mantra and make them daydream as ‘whence cometh such a fool of love to tell them such’.

The other thing this track is able to do is to challenge you with some studio skills that nature and time has bequeathed to Lulu over the years. Who can be that innovative to start a track with voices of his two young sons – Sean and Shyne, the other one a toddler; and, of course, he laughs in the track and says he does not usually do this.

He has also used the same innovation in the track ‘Mponyere’ to show that, despite my lack of acknowledging this work without reservations, he is on top of his game as unlike most who will acknowledge those who have assisted in the project on the back side of the cover sleeve, he has included them towards the end of the track.      

Then there are tracks entitled ‘Ndilembeni’  and ‘Mlondore’ which will leave gospel pundits confused as at the first opportunity to reach their earshot, they would conclude it is collaboration with some such gospel acts Limbani Simenti or Patience Namadingo. The voice that would thus have you misled is in fact your own good old Lulu.

Well, in short, the tracks takes away any surprise if somewhere in posterity Lulu declares his switch to gospel; you know better that his previous albums have also had such gospel wonder tracks.

‘Ndakudziwa’ still reinforces the fact that Lulu is the godfather of Malawian R&B.

Because he is not only a skilful guitarist but generally an accomplished musical instrumentalist, this is one album that has instruments playing with the internationally acceptable touch. Each instrument is speaking, not hoarsely or going all over the place. It is much disciplined instrumentation display and added with Lulu’s silky smooth R&B voice, this is an album to have and this is a proof that his Mathumela Band has come of age, to say nothing of his Mathumela Studio.

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