Rarely would you use cassettes for playing music these days, especially with the proliferation of CDs and flash disks. I happen to be driving around in a vehicle that has good cassette player and, therefore, this forced me to go back into my musical archives to look for music that I can play with the player to keep me going as I carry out my errands around town.
Frank Kalonde’s album called ‘Fight our Bones’ is one such keepsake that I came across from my collection. I got it playing and since then it has kept many questions welling up in my mind considering that when he came on the scene in the year 2000 he brought with him so much promise.
This was not a plenteous compilation to start with. Side A had three tracks: ‘Sweet Mama’, ‘Token to Living’ and the title track ‘Fight our Bones’. On the flipside there were three tracks as well: ‘Easy Roots man’, ‘Unity’ and ‘Turn my Enemies’ and a bonus track which was an extended version of ‘Sweet Mama’.
This album is a rich souvenir considering that the lyrics for some of the tracks like ‘Sweet Mama’, ‘Token Living’ and ‘Fight our Bones’ were done by one of Malawi’s fallen literature sage Ken Kalonde, who was Frank’s sibling.
This production was recorded by the all time great producer, the late Chuma Soko who also did drums, bass as well all guitars and keyboards on the album. And, believe it or not, the versatile Dan Sibale played the flute.
The backing vocals were done by Frank himself, Francis Mengezi, McDonald Chinkango and one man who I still respect as the pioneer of Malawi’s modern reggae music long before the revelation of Evison Matafale, the Zomba based the late Muga Mutaya.
Muga Mutaya – with his ‘Spiritual Reggae’ – joins a long list where Ken Kalonde is also found that only came on the scene with just one production and disappeared they include lawyer Ambokile Salimu, who was bursting airwaves as ‘Chapter Priest’; Tingo and Kheneneng’e with their famed track ‘Muwapatse Moyo’; Sad Bonongwe and Burton Khumukhumu with their ‘Lende Gule’.
It’s a shame we also have Ken ‘Ashawishe’ Klips and Chris Chisoni who only tempted the music market before disappearing into oblivion.
Many questions would be asked why Ken Kalonde only came with one album and disappeared.
Is it still to do with how bad the market system has treated them by not appreciating their talent financially?
While at least Frank released an album, other artists have only emerged with singles.
A single in musical parlance is when an artist has released just one track for the consumers. While in other musical industries best singles have scaled the heights and turned artists instant millionaires, in Malawi it is a different story altogether.
In the past, Ben Michael Mankhamba was good at releasing singles which in the end he would pool into an album.
While the disadvantage is that others have become known as one-hit-wonders, other clever artists have used it as a yardstick to gauge if they could be accepted in the industry.
But, like it is the trend in the world of art, a masterpiece is never common; and for sure other artists have released just one song and that has been their end, no one has ever heard of them, but their one song has stood the test of time.
Other songs though, have come and achieved fame but disappeared from the musical scene together with their performers. Remember ‘Maganizo Kukoma’ done by Rudy K and Ital Man? What about Wiza Kaunda? He sang about discrimination that people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS experiences. These only hit the market with these single tracks but then disappeared.
Then there is that Lilongwe-based reggae star, known as Danie Muyaya and The Yebonaz in showbiz circles. He released a reggae track ‘Timba’ but never came on the scene again.
There is also Nameless who came on the scene with ‘KC and Bobo’ and then ‘China’. Another appealing song with a powerful message and compelling voice by Alex Kamonga called ‘Chibwana Chimalanda’ only came hot as a single.
An artist called Nepman also brought his ‘Malipe Dance’ and disappeared the same with Physics and his ‘Cholapisa’. The latter tried a come-back but is failing to reach the standards he had set for himself.
What I am saying is that it is never known whether the single tracks that, by Malawian standards, froze the musical industry when they were released, were part of album compilation or just singles.
Some consumers that I have talked to say some artists have given them a raw deal when out of 10 or 12 even 14 tracks album there is only one that is a hit while the rest becomes mere flops.
I have in mind one by Tingo and Khemeneng’e, who notched out the hit ‘Ambuye Muwapase Moyo’. There is also the Balaka based Innocent Banda with his track ‘Tiyambirenso Chikondi’
Another track ‘Chimtofu’ by Ashawishe was placed in an album where the rest of the tracks are mediocre and since the artists is also a radio DJ he has ever confessed that he was forced to come up with an album to accommodate this track.
A question that artists would ask is: how else do you get wasteful? Is it serious to release just a single track after making a sleeve, buying CDs and doing all the stuff? My answer is simply, yes it is possible.
Provided it is well guarded against piracy, this one track can sell big time, other than watering down its fine quality just for the sake of adding quantity to the album.
I digressed; the question again where is Frank Kalonde?