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.