Mablacks and Wailing Brothers Paradox


Ever since drummer and lead guitarist Paul and Takudziwani Chokani respectively left reggae group Black Missionaries to revive Wailing Brothers that was started by their elder brother Elias(deceased) in the early 1990s, more questions than answers have emerged.

Before, I brushed it off, as something expected. Having been the band that helped in the revelation of Evison Matafale to Malawians, I argued then that we needed variety because Wailing Brothers was not supposed to die after all.

What has however prompted me to come back this time, is the absurdity that surrounds the lack of willingness to tell Malawians what exactly happened for the Wailing Brothers to decide to wake up and reclaim its musical spot at this point in time.

Kuimba 1 which is Matafale’s first known album was backed by the Wailing Brothers, then came Kuimba 2 where Matafale introduced to the Malawians the forgotten legacy of the Robert Fumulani musical dynasty. It brought us Musamude(deceased), Anjiru and Chizondi.

Those of you who remember, Robert Fumulani had his younger brother Arnold who performed beneath his shadow under the banner of Likhubula River Jazz Band and with the emergence of Matafale and the Black Missionaries dominated by the Fumulanis from Robert, younger brother Arnold’s son Gift also materialized.

Now long before his passing, it was clear that Wailing Brothers would still perpetuate the spirit of its originator Elias Chokani but his younger siblings chose to follow a different path and performed, but hidden in the obscurities of Mablacks, as The Black Missionaries is now popularly known.

If anything, this was the time the two would have taken it upon themselves to build on the foundation laid by their elder brother.The Chokani Brothers only came on the Black Missionaries scene after Matafale died and when Musamude took over the mantle some 13 years ago.

Why now? Is the question none of the concerned have graced with convincing answers, leading to speculation. The guesswork has grounded many to believe that it was due to being treated as nonessential to the grouping.

Look, the Black Missionaries had late Gift Thugo, the two Chokani Brothers, the three (two)Fumulani siblings and of course their bassist Peter Amidu; however those appearing on their album cover sleeves have been the bassist and the Fumulani brothers while the rest were obscured.

I beg to differ with those using this conjecture considering the many years that Kuimba albums have been coming and none of the Chokani Brothers ever raised the alarm. One thing we are not being told is to answer the question of what the initial arrangement that was stricken when the Chokani brothers joined Mablacks upon the demise of Matafale. Again why did the Chokani Brothers part ways with Matafale? Was it therefore right for the Blacks to take them into their fold upon his death?

The other conundrum to ponder is on the split of the membership. From the onset Gift Fumulani and his cousins in The Black Missionaries were never in good books until Rasta Musamude talked things over with him and he became part of the Black Missionaries tours up to the time of his death. No wonder when his younger sibling Moda wanted to step into the shoes of Gift, Mablacks had no problems accepting him to become part of the fixture during all their tours.

Those that have patronised the Black Missionaries shows across the country will tell you that the lineup would usually include KhozieMasimbe, Toza Mourner Matafale (Kapito), Moda, Yanjanani Chumbu, Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa and then Mablacks.

Surprise, surprise when Wailing Brothers decided to start their own shows the Chokani brothers took with them Toza and Moda from this line up. They even went further to introduce Moda’s younger brother Arnold Jnr and none of us asked those probing questions. What is it that we are not being told? Was Toza and Moda, just like the Chokani Brothers disgruntled with Anjiru and team?

Now, if you want to believe the all normal, all clear for  the cousins, as this is what they are, [the Wailing Brothers and The Black Missionaries are cousins] and considering the many years the Chokani Brothers toiled with Mablacks, any intention to revive the Wailing Brothers should be something that should be supported by the Black Missionaries. But it was never the case. When the revived Wailing Brothers launched their 14-track album titled Unfinished Project at Robin’s Park in Blantyre and Lilongwe Golf Club, Mablacks never made the list.

Lucius Banda was part of those that performed with his Zembani Band and welcomed Wailing Brothers’ revival saying Black Missionaries has given birth to a child, which is ironic considering that the former started first.

Takudziwani and Paul maintained that revival of Wailing Brothers is not to kill Black Missionaries but to strengthen the mission.

But performing at Mkango Lodge last weekend showed that with the departure of the Chokani brothers Owen Hulera and Amos Mlolowa are now playing the lead and the drums respectively. And Anjiru could not be drawn to comment on the revival of the Wailing Brothers when he told the audience that they were not at Mkango to talk about others but Black Missionaries because they are on a mission and still going forward. Bass guitarist Amidu kept on telling the audience during the gig that Black Missionaries were on a mission and not competition.

This behavior and lack of coming out of the cocoon is not healthy and will keep people talking. As performers of the public, the least the two groups can do is to come out in the open and speak out. Imagine if a show will be organized where Mablacks will perform side by side with The Wailing Brothers.

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About Gregory Gondwe - Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started practising journalism in 1993. Until March 31, 2012 he was regional editor and bureau chief for Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). Gregory is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma of Journalism and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He is also columnist for Malawi's first and oldest weekly, Malawi News. He can be contacted on gregorygondwe@gmail.com.
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