Disregard all the challenges that the organisers of the annual Music Malawi (Muma) Awards have encountered to put up the event for the second year running.
The gesture to decorate late Mr. Michael Fredrick Paul Sauka with the Life Time Achiever Award for composing Malawi’s National Anthem dims all such challenges.
MediaCorp Limited and Trocadero Consulting in partnership with Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) say they have unveiled Sauka as the Life Time Achiever for this edition going by the theme ‘Celebrating Malawi Music at 50.’
I happen to have been there on July 6, 2011 when late President Bingu wa Mutharika decorated eight musicians during the Independence Anniversary Celebrations at the Mzuzu Stadium.
Sauka was given the honour bestowed on those called Principal Achievers. At the time then I thought this honour had come too late considering that even on the day that Mutharika was sworn in, it was this Sauka-composed-national anthem that was performed several times.
Since on the day others had given top accolades I also raised a debate on whether or not Sauka deserved a Principal Achiever honour that he was given or needed a Grand Achiever accolade.
Born 1934, in his life time Sauka showed a unique talent both as a composer and pianist as he played music which became a big part of his life as it helped him emerge as one of the greatest musicians in the early 1960’s.
His musical exploits include composing the Malawi National Anthem, Mulungu Dalitsani Malawi Oh God Bless Malawi, which was chosen through a stiff and highly competitive process involving Malawian and non-Malawian composers.
He also pioneered the formation of the then renowned Blantyre City Recreation Fine and Performing arts group besides composing numerous pieces for the MBC Band and Limbe Cathedral Choir.
Sauka also used the performing arts group, to undertake development and health outreach mobilization programmes. He is also honoured for his ability to balance singing and teaching artists in music literacy and performance, thereby advancing his knowledge of music to the next generation.
The other reason I think Muma awards organisers have scored highly is that in April 2006 I was part of a Constitutional Review conference that was also attended by the current president as a consultant.
Participants and contributors to the Constitutional Review Conference proposed that some areas in the country’s National Anthem be changed in order to be consistent with the current political, economic and social scenario. Apparently none has taken heed to such calls, speaking volumes of how highly regarded this composition is.
I remember that this matter, which came to the attention of the conference during the presentation by Rafiq Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) received support from Kamuzu Chibambo, a lawyer who is also People’s Transformation Party (PETRA).
Chibambo protested that Malawians have been singing about hunger, disease and envy for 40 years and proposed that these words be removed or replaced from the National Anthem.
I remember that this was his argument: “What I know is usually what I affirm and what I affirm controls me therefore we must not let hunger, disease and envy control us. We need to address this issue because we must move on.”
Hajat who was presenting a paper entitled “A Constitutional Fortress: Mirage or Miraculously Possible?” also started by saying that some words in the National Anthem like where it talked of leaders must be replaced with people.
The conference could perhaps consider amending our National Anthem to say, ”Bless our people – each and every one instead of Bless our Leaders”
To the applause of the participants Hajat also argued that once a person has become a leader then it means he has already been blessed and therefore if the conference wanted to maintain the leader in the National Anthem then it must be “Guide our leader and not Bless”.
If the submissions on the changing of the National Anthem were to take effect, it would have been the first time that it was to change since the adoption of the anthem in 1964.
Sauka died on August 15, 1990 a poor man, because he did not get any royalties from the National Anthem prompting his relatives to press on Government to assist his widow, which it never did.
The organisers say going by the theme of the awards “Celebrating Malawi Music at 50” which is in tandem with Malawi’s 50 years of independence, a selected panel of Judges have decided to give this converted award of Life Time Achiever to Michael- Fredrick Paul Sauka, the composer of the country’s National Anthem, which has been Malawi’s heart and soul for the last 50 years.
I doff my hat for the judges that include broadcaster Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, Journalist Penelope Paliani Kamanga, ethno-musician Waliko Makhala, Music Crossroads Country Director Mathews Mfune, DJs Kenny Klips, broadcaster Jean Chalungama and DJ Maya who scrutinised the nominations and given a nod to Sauka as the Life Time Achiever.