Let me start with a confession that when Layison Njati came on the musical scene, with his track, ‘Ndizakupasa Love Yabwino’as Anko Layi I had huge reservations.
This was at a time when I had been arguing that we needed a musical identity as a country where anything musical that would be produced by us once played within any earshot should easily be recognised as a Malawi music genre.
But here was an artist who did not only come up with a childish showbiz name Anko Layi, but came up with a cheeky track ‘Ndizakupasa Love Yabwino’ and worse still he was sounding Zambian. And everyone was as usual overtaken by another bubblegum production.
However, a track ‘Makwatirakwatira’ in his latest album ‘Khala Chete’ has changed all that. It has made me pause a bit and take a look at the artist with a really serious ear.
When one listens to the track, you would wrongly dismiss it as just one of those tracks that are hitting the airwaves all over the place because besides entertaining, it leaves you in stitches as it has a description of the song’s character that borders on comedy.
But this is the track that needs to be taken seriously as it has again shown that it is possible to have a Malawian genre.
Three years ago when Maskal released ‘Zili ndi iwe’ and ‘Usatope’ I was of the view that ‘Usatope’ was truly a fusion of an R’n’B like resonance that was reverberating in a ‘Manganje’ like thrash; it kind of fit in the frame of most of the traditional tracks that take after the ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ lilt.
This quickly takes me to the works of Sonyezo Houston Kandoje, especially a song track called “Tsika” which he also describes as Manganje on steroids as inspired by Malawi’s very own‘Champweteka Chimanga’ sound.
No other African country has this sound which is fortunately present in Manganje, Vimbuza and many other traditional beat.
These tracks are a sign that Malawi music is slowly and surely observing a departure from a cacophonous and fleetness beat that characterized it in the past.
The advantage is that Sonye’s place is in the musical studio and his self-produced song is an indication that he is turning the studio into an experimental lab.
The same experiment would be said of Anko Layi who has a studio rightly called Audio Clinic.
Two years ago he produced a sound track for a story board and animations project called ‘Tilitonse’ by Stephen Emilio of GD Art & Designs.
If one attentively listens to this sound track, they would not be surprised with Anko Layi’s ‘Makwatirakwatira’ because it is as a result of a long time experiment on how to turn the ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ beat into some hybrid funky that should identify with Malawi.
Its simplicity explains why Anko Layi should be taken serious because he almost made me get disappointed that this is an artists who has studied music at the University of Cape Town in South Africa; was nominated as the best guitarist, has a diploma in music reading, writing, and composing as well as being a vocalist and yet look at his lack of contribution to the development of a local genre.
Now I can confidently describe him as an accomplished singer, guitarist and producer and now with his own band known The Boosters Band he needs to spread this genre across.
Having been performing with Edgar ndi Davis Band, it would not be difficult to popularise the Malawi beat.
I do not know why our sound scientists like Anko Layi and Sonye for example, do not come together to experiment with ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ beat even further. When you listen to the ‘Tilitonse’sound track I am talking about, then Sonye’s ‘Tsika’ as well as Maskal’s ‘Usatope’ you’ll realise that even with ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ as the holding sound in order to identify the genre there can still be sound variations that in any way cannot remain monotonous.
‘Makwatirakwatira’ is built on ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ with a soft continuous tap which is fused with ‘brass bridging’ that could have come from synthesisers and this is maintained throughout the song as it is cascading with some playful lyrical content that has been embossed in powerful and disciplined vocal output.
Anko Layi in ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ should be taken serious. It’s one of the best experimental versions, as we try to procreate our Malawi music genre from our musical laboratories. I guess I now take my earlier reservations back; Layison Njati is indeed trying to become the Uncle of Malawi’s music genre.