On the account of the contagious awe that his six previous albums have drawn out of many people, Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa decided to carve another piece of facet that has become the most shining of his multi-faceted career when he released ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ – his seventh album.
Since his first album in 2000, ‘Tisatengeke’ the journey has been that of hope. And 2016 we are told an Eighth album is in the making. But let’s talk about ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’.
Toils without Dividends
Makondetsa himself reminiscences that he always cherished the dream that, “with music I will get wealthier than doing anything else.”
Buoyed by this belief and the fact that he comes from a musical family, the following year in 2001, he released ‘Kambelembele’ in the hope that to have two albums in the bag would translate into a six-figured financial statement.
Perhaps he was doing things in a hurry and had a break of two years before unleashing a third and fourth album within two years. In 2003 he christened ‘Maonekedwe’ as the third album followed two years later by another one; ‘Mfakafaka’.
It is now apparent that every two years, Makondetsa releases an album if the release in 2007 of ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’ tagged along by ‘Mbumba ya Abraham’ in 2009 is rendering enough clues to reinforce this observation.
But well, it is flatly challenged by the release of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ which came after four years.
The answer is in what Makondetsa says is his new posture of protest.
“At the rate we are going, I realised that in my country Malawi you can entertain the people through music for the rest of your life but still die a pauper,” observes Makondetsa.
He says for years, and after invading the hall of fame with seven albums which means an average of 84 tracks, there is nothing to show and yet through music in other countries, just one track has catapulted musicians to stardom.
“While the marketing system is a big letdown, then there is piracy to contend with. Piracy is lethal poison that is eventually going to kill the music industry,” says Makondetsa who rubs it in the face of most Malawians who help piracy by buying pirated music.
Makondetsa says from the preceding Mbumba ya Abraham album before the latest Fuko Lokondedwa; he made a decision that he will sing religious songs which will take him closer to his God in protest against lack of progress despite fame and more musical products.
“I realised that the schedule of this career takes me on the road half of the time and in a way was pushing me away from my God,” he explicates, “I discovered that I needed to create a situation where, if I don’t get anything from music then I should always talk with my God through music for my own spiritual benefit and satisfaction.”
“Now even when they will pirate my music and leave me a destitute, with God you don’t lose anything,” he philosophises.
Now, besides the protest for lack of assets accumulation out of music and that Makondetsa, a father of 13-year-old Yankho who though in Standard 5 is already a keyboard expert, says he is spending more time reading the Bible where he is getting inspiration to come up with latest compositions.
And indeed this reggae album has given people another reason why they should keep on mistaken ‘Mr. Cool’ as the de facto leader of the Chileka outfit – The Black Missionaries.
But perhaps without trying to be judgemental, it is only fair to state that his latest ‘drudgery’ only manages to confuse his followers more as it still adds to the myth that are in the themes of his message.
It reminds all, of living and fallen stars that once shone and still shines, and provide unfading light to the Singano Village in Chileka.
One that quickly comes to mind is the star in fallen Gift Fumulani. He is Makondetsa’s cousin, whose last ten-track album ‘Mphamvu yake Mulungu’ still controls its place in the hall of fame as one such musical artefact that is more revealing. Long he had also decided to get his inspiration from the Bible.
Nonetheless like Makondetsa’s ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ it is a very personal statement of one man whose mind was still searching for a right spiritual sanctuary.
While Fumulani’s last ‘toils’ was an interface of intercession, mingled in a psycho-religious dilemma, spiritual declaration, interlocked with an expression of love devotion, in Makondetsa’s latest ‘efforts’ there is one religious man whose every track is incomplete without mentioning the name of God the father and the Son – Jesus.
Look at the opening track of the 11 tracks in the album, ‘Ali Pompano’ which impresses on the message that Jesus gave to his disciples that the one that will betray the Son of Man was amongst them. You are left wondering to whom the message is being directed to.
“Eeeh! Ali pompano – Yemwe azakupachike”(Yes he is here – the one who will crucify you)
Indee! Ali pompano – Omwe azakupele.”(Yes they are here – those who will betray you)
It shows that Mr. Cool loves to be allegorical in the lyrical aspect of his tracks.
Remember ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’? It does not specifically state its theme on one attempt of trying to understand its lyrical content.
“It’s just a gift from God that I can present my musical message in such a parable like way,” acknowledges Mr. Cool.
Gospel, Spiritual or religious
The second track, ‘Podzatitenga’ is something artists like Lloyd Phiri will turn green with envy with as it is a typical of what they call gospel tracks, still bringing confusion to the question, Who is a gospel artist?
‘Muyuda’ which is one of the album’s biggest hits has the same ring to it but I don’t agree to describe it as a gospel track, it’s rather a religious track.
“You can’t identify what I sing as what has become accepted in Malawi as Gospel music. It’s not spiritual music,” says Makondetsa before agreeing, “But yes it is religious music.”
Uyu ndi muyuda; Ochokela/wobadwira ku Yudea
Abale ake nga Chiyuda; Ndiye Mfumu ya ayuda
The rhyming chorus above has become explosive, and like is the case with the past works; these tracks tend to become street anthems.
‘Fire Time’ one of two English tracks is also talking about the son of man who is about to finish the revelation with fire, while the other English track ‘Black Woman’ is where he is expressing love of his black beautiful woman whom he cannot stay without.
This track and ‘Sadziwa’ as well as ‘Sudzampeza’ are the only three tracks that have no where mentioning Jesus and God, perhaps because they are love tracks.
Mr. Cool of the tribe of Benjamin
The title track ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ is Makondetsa’s favourite: “In this track I am talking to my God and I feel good about the sensation it emits when I am singing it.”
There is a track dedicated to his grandfather Enoch Robert Fumulani called ‘Wagwa Mtengo’. He passed on to our ancestors four years ago.
He says as someone whose mother was last born as was the case with Biblical Benjamin – by the way, Robert Fumulani Jnr. father to his Black Missionaries cousins was 5th born while Arnold, father to late Gift and Moda was 8th while his mother was 9th – he made the track his personal docket.
“In this track I talk about myself and family in earnest. I talk about me and my upbringing in the household of my grandparents,” says the diminutive father of three, whose other two children are Anthony Junior and little daughter Salome.
In the book of Genesis 49 Jacob blessed all his 12 children and when it was the turn of Benjamin whom Makondetsa identifies with, he said “Benjamin is the ravenous wolf, devouring his enemies in the morning and dividing his plunder in the evening.”
Does this signpost that it is time for pirates to take cover?
The 11 track reggae album, [of course ten tracks, if one considers the dub version inclusion of Fire Time], is a typical of Makondetsa album, except that the Biblical influence seems to be doing wonders; besides its protest approach, it is quite engaging and one can only respond to Mr. Cool’s pleas and buy a copy.
“Piracy, especially in Lilongwe where it is being done on a large scale, is compromising our status and considering the poor music industry, I don’t know what Malawians are expecting us to become,” bemoans Makondetsa.