Kenyatta Hill, the True Musical Son

When you listen to the album, ‘Live On: Tribute to Culture’ by the son of the legendary Jamaican reggae outfit’s front man Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill you realise how a true musical son he is to his father.
I really do not know if his situation can be compared to the other sons that took over from their fathers, like the Black Missionaries back home, for example, but in the case of Kenyatta Hill one would really be tempted to believe what is written on the website called that his career began the day his father’s ended.
Kenyatta’s dad, Joseph, who was the front man and songwriter for the Jamaican vocal trio, Culture. He collapsed and died while on a 2006 tour of Europe. The website notes that to the amazement of promoters, fans and critics alike, Kenyatta stepped onstage and delivered electrifying performances time and again – nineteen shows in all – until the tour was complete. And this was unheard of in any genre of music at any time, it states.
“Kenyatta gave of himself so totally – as his father had for so many years – that the two seemed to become one, the eerily similar voices and the vibes igniting the critics and yielding a new reggae mantra ‘magic, not tragic!’” the website reports.
As if what he displayed with the remaining shows of his father was not enough, at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, at the memorial concert for Joseph, the website states that Kenyatta’s performance with Culture was the highlight in the star-studded night and garnered him the rousing applause of the hard-to-please Kingston reggae audience. It further notes that Kenyatta went on to front Culture in a series of performances in the US, Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, again leaving audiences amazed and delighted.
The coming on the scene by the young Hill is said to be influenced by elements of dancehall grounded in the roots tradition and motivated to carry on his father’s work. Kenyatta set to writing, finishing songs that Joseph had started and creating new music of his own.
“On his poignant debut single, “Daddy”, (Tafari Records) backed by a masterful roster of musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser, and produced by Lynford “Fatta” Marshall, he confronted the emotional pain and uncertainty he felt after the loss of his father. He cried while he wrote, just as audiences in Europe had cried while he sang,” the website states.
I am getting all that the website wrote because it truly expresses what I wanted to say about Kenyatta having listened to his album this week. The website marks ‘Pass the Torch’ as the complete CD having “a collector’s item feel” which was released in 2007 to long-time Culture fans and critics who have embraced the son, named after Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya.
“With its very lovely and high level vibe Kenyatta Hill’s first CD prompted one long-time Culture fan to proclaim, ‘Culture is ALIVE’,” states the website matter-of-factly.
The website says indeed Culture, featuring Kenyatta, continues to share the wisdom of Joseph’s conscious reggae, overlaid with Kenyatta’s own lively and youthful musical vision. Kenyatta toured in support of ‘Pass the Torch’ with a number of festival appearances throughout 2009 as well as a highly successful US tour with Beres Hammond in 2009 and 2010.
It was after these tours that in 2011 he released ‘Live On’, a highly-acclaimed tribute to the music of Joseph Hill and Culture with Kenyatta performing fresh renditions of some of their classic compositions. 2011 also saw Kenyatta Hill on tour with a hot new band and expands his musical horizons beyond his formidable roots.
Of course, the father is always the father, but listening to ‘Live On’ one cannot help it but realise that indeed the father, Joseph Hill, is still alive in the son, Kenyatta Hill.
One big question back home would then be: is it the same with the living sons? Is Robert Fumulani still alive in the persons of Anjiru and Chizondi?


Nkasa’s musical Prostitution

Joseph Nkasa came on the musical scene in the late 90s with kind of music that never made any mark. It was until in the early to mid 2000 when he brought some ‘Wayenda wapenga’ toils that he got his first substantive recognition.

When he materialized again with an album that had tracks like ‘Zosayina-sayina’ the acceptance of lyrical packed songs was overwhelming that apart from huge sales in 2003 he got over K1m in Mechanical, Public Performance and Broadcasting Royalties from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).

This was a huge amount of money at the time and it made him go bananas as he bought property including cars without thinking of how best to manage his resources.

By the time he got another payment in 2009 from Cosoma which was close to K600 thousand he had still not learnt a lesson on how best to manage resources.

To show that that his popularity has waned in this December 29, 2009 pay out, it was Lawrence Mbenjere who set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

At that time it looked historical that since the establishment Cosoma the K2, 523, 459.16 that Mbenjere got was the biggest money it has dished out to a single musician.

And at the same event, Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.

Nkasa’s hunt for money has taken him to many places including begging and even performing with Zembani Band. But all this never brought as much money as he wanted.

In between though, he almost hit gold when he started toying with politicians in earnest.

Copying Lucius Banda’s 2004 campaign song ‘Yellow’ he did a track for the President Bingu wa Mutharika called ‘Mose wa lero’ which helped lift his stature as a presidential candidate making Mutharika the first to win with an over 70 percent landslide victory.

Nkasa has always claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But with his show for political money, this now remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he was contesting for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably. 

After Chimunthu Banda he allegedly went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

In fact media reports indicate that Nkasa signed an MOU with Katsonga to produce a five-track album – among the tracks, ‘Kulira kwa a Mphawi’, ‘Wanunkha Malawi’, ‘Opani Yehova’ – at a cost of K1,074,000.00; five promotional jingles at K500,000 and hold 93 live performances to a tune of K5,580,000 coming to a total of K7, 154, 000. 

While the effectiveness of this project has not even materialised, Nkasa has now done a track for Joyce Banda whom he discredited in the other tracks where he is singing complete opposite to what he sang in the other tracks.

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she will be voted into power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.

It is therefore very difficult for Malawians to even believe in whatever messages his tracks contain, otherwise his message remains a mockery to voters. Imagine if one listens to both the Katsonga tracks and the JB song, would they really make a position based on Nkasa’s position?

No wonder Nkasa has not succeeded as a musician even when he attempted to establish his  Zosayina Band because he is into musical prostitution that knows no morals. With such dearth of any guiding principles looking into one’s career, one cannot prosper in any discipline.

Sham Religious Choir Show

On paper it sounds good to have plenty artists playing on the same day, the same venue and coming one after the other… That has been the case the last two weekends where Zomba, Blantyre and Lilongwe witnessed a large turnout of both patrons and artists that include Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Favoured Martha, Kamuzu Singers, Great Angels Choir, The Marvellous Deeds, Ndirande Anglican voices, Peter Mlangeni, Limbani Simenti, Mlaka Maliro, the Mighty POV and Thocco Katimba.

This was however the show that was organised by The Great Angels Choir. The group has reported in the media that it had 850 patrons at Gymkhana Club in Zomba, 2500 at Robbins Park in Blantyre and 4,000 at ICA Marque in Lilongwe.

Every head parted ways with K1000 and this money needed to get its worth by way of tight performances from the artists.

I attended the Blantyre Show which was scheduled to run between 1 PM and 7PM, a six-hour marathon that was expected to excite the over 2500 patrons that jam-packed Robins Park.

One clear thing that I witnessed was that it was apparent that there was an overcrowding problem which caused no problem to the organisers whose only care was how much money they would be making by the end of the day.

It also provides answers on how much effort should be put when designing entertainment infrastructure. Robbins Park for example has air conditioners, but whether these are just for decoration or they are really there to serve the purpose only the owners can answer. But for me, I think my answer is for the former because I have never seen them functioning where they are required to do so. There was too much heat emitting from 2500 bodies, some diseased while others too young to be exposed to such a melting pot of what might turn out to be hazardous to their ‘green’ health.

The other challenge is that there were too many artists for so little time. Others like Ethel Kamwendo Banda gave the people raw deal. She sounded tired and out of place. While others literary played a single track with some extension that was meant to mean that they are doing something. Next time start from 7 Am to 7 PM, or just invite few artists.

The other challenge I discovered was lack of stage discipline. Not from the artists though, but from the patrons, some of whom were high on something from spiritual powers to powers of alcohol and banned substances even when this was a gospel show.

One would leap on stage and start performing with the artists. At first the rest of the patrons would feel they are part of the band before realisation dawning on them that these were just wayward patrons. Then everyone would be trying to join the stage and your guess of confusion that would emanate is as good as mine.

The other think I am reluctant to talk about is on the musical equipment, more so because they are owned by Mr. Entertainers himself. He does not take kindly when you talk about his instruments in a negative shade.

But for the sake of retaining quality I will take the risk of being flaked for differing with him again. Instruments are like human beings when it comes to getting tired. Unless he schools me more, there is no way instruments can play at its full capacity for six long gruelling hours without having to show some fatigue. If it is possible the main instruments that project quality output, especially mixers, is supposed to come with substitute ones. At around 5 to 6 PM when Ndirande Anglican was to start playing, the instruments had lost its sharpness and were sounding hoarse and tired. The performance had to be stopped briefly.

Then there is also need to consider adding microphones when groups like Great Angels or Ndirande Anglican Voices are performing. The situation where four people have to share a single microphone is mocking the patrons to say the least. More so when there is need for two leading vocalist to sing like in the case of The Great Angels, the other singers are literary reduced to dancers as they have no microphones to sing on. Otherwise the shows were great and exciting except for the little problems that turned to almost a sham.