Alborosie – The Italian with Reggae DNA


There is a tale of Alberto D’Ascola, born and raised in the home of Mafia in Sicily in Italy. At 23 he left Italy for a journey to the home of reggae music in Jamaica his flirting with the genre back when he was just 15 having spurred him to trek to the Caribbean.

At that age back in Italy and named Stena, D’Ascola who has now adopted stage name Alborosie, which was never given to him in good faith in his early days in Jamaica, started his musical career in an Italian reggae band called Reggae National Tickets, from Bergamo city in that European country.

Kingston, Jamaica is a place where plenty talented native Jamaicans have failed to break through with their music career. It is therefore unimaginable that a white Italian man would survive in such a black dominated space, pursuing a music genre that promotes the black race in the face of white domination.

What is more, from a country that Pope, who makes huge folder for Jamaican reggae music, comes from.

However Alborosie as a multi-instrumentalist – being one who is adept in guitar, bass, drums and keyboard – took the challenge head on. Here he did not only try solo music career – pursuing roots reggae – but also embraced Rastafari culture and learnt Jamaican Patois.

Knowing that it won’t be easy to land in Kingston gun blazing and as they say there ‘mash up the place’, Alborosie started life as a sound engineer and producer.

Funny enough he worked with another of his ilk, this one from Germany called Tilmann Otto, stage name Gentleman who has been travelling to and fro Jamaica since he was 18 years old. He also worked with one of BOB Marley’s sons Ky-Mani leading to his first solo album called Soul Pirate, subsequently followed in 2009 by a second one called Escape from Babylon.

Now with hit singles like ‘Rastafari Anthem’, ‘Kingston Town’, ‘Call Up Jah’, and ‘Rock the Dancehall’ Alborosie who has since started his own record label, Forward Recordings has gone against the odds to be counted. Now he is conquering the world with reggae concerts.

And to cap it all in 2011, he became the first white artist to win the M.O.B.O. (Music of Black Origin) Awards in the Best Reggae Act category.

When one listens to Alborosie’s reggae tunes from his nine albums, 54 singles and extended plays (EPs) you are left with admiration for the inborn reggae talent that he puts on display.

Just to show that he has indeed mustered the reggae art he can play roots reggae with the all revered one drop, go the rub-a-dub route, he can do massive dancehall tunes. As if that is not even enough, he has some productions done in old reggae beat at that time called ska which fits into the present state of things. In the album called Escape from Babylon to the Kingdom of Zion, Alborosie has a lead single titled Mama SheDon’t like You which is a humorous up-tempo ska track.

It is for this unique artist that I decided this week to dedicate this space as part of my reverence to a reggae performer who defied the odds and is now living beyond anybody’s expectation as an accomplished reggae emissary who is not fully honoured because of his origins and his skin colour.

Regardless of not accepting him, in full or otherwise, Alborosie has served the reggae genre well and he stands to even achieve great, regardless of the struggle within the reggae industry. He is unlike Gentleman for example, who tilts more towards commercial reggae while Alborosie has been a conscious root reggae man who – despite his Italian roots – has even sang against the Pope as most reggae artists of Rastafarian culture do.

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The resurrection of Billy Kaunda


Sometime in September of 2011 when I was a tenant of the title across the street, I wrote something to the effect that musical star Billy Kaunda was ‘The Fading Musician’. Oh Dear, you should have seen how he reacted.

I still blame the gatekeeper of the Weekender at the time for I was writing as Prof. Zungwala but this did not stop Billy from getting hold of me – this is a story for another day.

Billy was deputy cabinet minister at the time and I really do not understand whether his not taking my perceived ‘attacks’ on the chin was bolstered by this fact or not.

It is not for any fears of similar attacks that I come again to proclaim of Billy’s resurrection having watched him perform at M1 Central Point in Lilongwe recently. This was a musical show organised by Skeffa Chimoto who brought along the Zambian acrobat chief Dalisoul who masquerades as a musician.

Billy was the last to perform and from the onset of his performance up until over 150 minutes later when the curtain fell, he never disappointed.

Billy has a band called Armageddon but on this occasion I was surprised to see smartly dressed young men who I later learnt are members of Lilongwe Baptist Church Band which Billy plays with.

I have never been impressed with such adroit display of a band that never lost it in any way save for one occasion when one of the three keyboards – 3 keyboards you heard me right – went off key and Billy went right there to assist putting it back in order.

What is interesting is that the one behind that particular keyboard was Billy Kaunda Junior, his own younger son who is part of the band. Of course this mishap cannot take away the fact that the boy is equally very talented considering that he is into music as a pass time activity going by his father’s explanation. He just had sat for his form 5 exams at Kalibu Academy and is set to pursue his studies elsewhere.

Let me borrow from my last entry to say matter of fact that ever since music ‘revolutionalised’ from the era of Robert Fumulani to that of Paul Banda in the early 1990s, the coming on the scene by Lucious Banda followed shortly after by Billy Kaunda changed the music landscape.
‘Mwapindulanji’, an album by Billy Kaunda stormed the industry with, helped to give a fresh impetus to the euphoria of having kissed goodbye the dictatorial rule, ushering in the multiparty democracy that had been ignited by ‘Son of a Poor Man’, a South African recorded album by Lucius Banda.

 

My argument for thinking that Billy’s career is fading took us back to the early days where lyrics in songs of Lucius Banda and Billy Kaunda were all but political and it was of little surprise that the two ended up doubling as politicians.
Again Lucius stepped on the political terrain earlier and from this time he started experiencing a divided following; others that followed his music thought the United Democratic Front, a party he had vilified in his songs but later joined, showed that, in principle, he is more worst than the politicians he musically castigated.
When Billy followed, the public swipe he faced was not as bad as the one Lucius had politically.
While both entered parliament and pursued political careers alongside the musical profession, Lucius had to be brought down politically and his music managed to clean up the political egg that smeared his face.
Love him or hate him, Lucius managed to survive because regardless of his political involvement he still had time for his music and every time he entered the studio to do a piece or two he brought out that which keep people debating.
Unfortunately for Billy Kaunda, ever since he joined the political fray, he never gave the seriousness that his musical career deserved and therefore while Lucius suffered political backlash it is Billy’s musical career that had to contend with some hostility due to the raw deal the industry says it was getting from him.

Now out of politics Billy’s musical career is back. I will explain why later.

Turning hymns into folly play


Mafo and Gibo Lantos might not make sense to the old school music lovers. In fact, at the risk of being in accurate, both Gibo Lantos and Mafo’s parents might not even know these two boys going by these names are actually their own children.

But believe you me; they have a huge influence on their fellow youths. This makes it worrisome when they put too much effort to turn both gospel music and other compositions from the hymn book into something lyrically unrecognizable, save for the familiar tune or melody.

I don’t desire to go into details for the fear of further directing the youth to such misguided music. Suffice it to say the creativity juices are flowing into wrong places for these boys who so far have changed few such gospel songs into covers that are promoting the very things the gospel stands against.

I am not here to say whether or not these two competing – not complementing – productions are done below or above par, musically, but I am here to discuss the ethical characteristic of musicians and the music they release in the manner that they do.

For Gibo Lantos, already, he has come into conflict with gospel outfit Great Angels Choir for making a cover of the tune and instrumentation of their hit Mundimangiranji.

What Gibo Lantos and Mafo do is to put in lyrics that talk about how good it is for them to be smoking cannabis as well as excessive beer drinking and womanising.

While there is an argument on whether a secular song can be adapted into a gospel song, the fact that these young guys decide to do the opposite by turning everything else to something else, then there is a problem.

Imagine a track that all your church life – since Sunday schools days – you have sang ‘God I can’t survive without you,’ then these boys do a cover that interchange God for cannabis or alcohol and they will now sing ‘cannabis I can’t survive without you,” just because on its own the message can’t sell but it has to ride on the catchy gospel hook instead.

I don’t want to take the route of trying to put out a sermon for the lads to repent but I would rather stick to the issue of ethics as this borders on copyrights which are a tool that is supposed to protect both songs thus melody and lyrics as well as recordings.

 

The owner of copyrights have exclusive rights to a number of acts including making of derivative works which is exactly what the boys are doing with songs that have their copyrights held by others and not them.

Whether or not they get the derivative rights to do remix of these previously done songs as well as the parody lyric sets to these well-known songs clearly show few challenges:

 

There is little knowledge of how these things work and this is the reason the right holders do not know how much power they wield over their works; while those committing the offence do so in ignorance, which of course, is not a defence in a court of law.

There are a number of issues to consider especially when it comes to copyright effectiveness of the hymn songs which have been with us for decades.

The moment these hymns were made public domain and such other attendant issues relating to the same coming into play, it became difficult to protect them from – not only the abuse they are suffering now but also for them to enjoy intellectual property rights protection which covers four Areas: Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Trade Secrets.

Music cannot be protected as a trade secret. Since 1886, when pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola, the formula for Coca-Cola has remained the longest running trade secret as the Coca-Cola Corporation never applied for a patent.

 

When you consider the rigorous legal processes, all I can ask from the boys – Gibo Lantos and Mafo is to behave themselves and be creative enough to make names without ‘badmouthing’ anything and anyone through the songs they are churning out now.

 

 

When Chaponda enlists Nkasa


If Joseph Nkasa was sent by minister of agriculture,irrigation and water development George Chaponda to douse fires currently burning down his political career, then his decision to take the offer has aggravated his dying musical vocation.

Conversely, if Joseph Nkasa decided to make money by singing about Chaponda’s predicament without his acquiescence then he needs to immeasurably apologize to the politician because this has done him more harm than good.

To keep you in the loop, Joseph Nkasa, the once upon a time befitting ‘Phungu’ has produced a song that intends to spruce up the image of Chaponda who has been embroidered in maize transactions that has been bedeviled by claims of corruption.

In the song Nkasa equates Chaponda to Joseph, one of the 12 sons of the Biblical Isaac who became a defacto ruler in Egypt after being sold there by his brothers due to his closeness to their father.

He further claims that Chaponda is paying for his mercifulness to help the hunger-stricken and that people are trying to make him lose ‘his ministry’.

Nkasa declares in the song that the stones that have been thrown at Chaponda with will accumulate to his advantage as he will use it to build a house which will make him the landlord.

In all this the meaning is that Chaponda will use the ridicule currently peddled about his involvement in the maize saga to become the leader of this country.

Anyway, my intentions are not to get the meaning out of this song but to describe the artist Nkasa who has been dubbed as the master lyricist who ingeniously uses metaphors and innuendos to craft his songs.

Of course Nkasa came on the musical scene in the late 90 but it was in the early-to-mid 2000 that he hogged the limelight with the production of his ‘WayendaWapenga’ toils.

When he materialized again with an album that had tracks like ‘Zosayina-sayina’ the acceptance of lyrical packed songs was overwhelming that apart from huge sales in 2003 he got over K1m in Mechanical, Public Performance and Broadcasting Royalties from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).

 

This was a huge amount of money at the time and it made him go bananas as he went of spending spree buying property including cars without thinking of how best to manage his resources.

 

By the time he got another cheque from Cosomain 2009which was close to K600 thousand, he had still not learnt a lesson on how best to manage resources.

 

To show that that his popularity has waned, in the December 29, 2009 Cosomapay out, it was Lawrence Mbenjere who set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

 

Nkasa’s hunt for money has led him to many places including begging and even performing with Zembani and Alleluya Bands. But all this has not brought as much money as he wants.

 

In between though, he almost hit gold when he started toying with politicians in earnest.

 

He did a track for President Bingu wa Mutharika called ‘Mose wa lero’ which helped lift his stature as a presidential candidate making Mutharika the first to achieve an over 70 percent landslide victory.

Nkasa has always claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But this remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for the then parliamentary Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he stood for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably.

 

After the Chimunthudebacle he went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

 

In fact media reports indicate that Nkasa signed an MOU with Katsonga to produce a five-track album – among the tracks, ‘Kulirakwa a Mphawi’, ‘Wanunkha Malawi’, ‘OpaniYehova’ – at a cost of K1,074,000.00; five promotional jingles at K500,000 and hold 93 live performances to a tune of K5,580,000 coming to a total of K7, 154, 000.

 

While the effectiveness of this project hadnot even materialised, Nkasa joined the PP ranks and did a track for Joyce Banda whom he had discredited in the other tracks.

 

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she would be voted to retain power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.

It is therefore very difficult for Malawians to even believe in whatever messages his tracks contain, otherwise his message remains a mockery to voters. Imagine if one listens to both the Katsonga tracks and the JB song, would they really make a position based on Nkasa’s position?

No wonder Nkasa has not succeeded as a musician even when he attempted to establish his Zosayina Band because he is into musical prostitution that knows no morals. With such dearth of any guiding principles looking into one’s career, one cannot prosper in any discipline.

To prove my point, if the CSOs that are baying for Chaponda’s blood only gave Nkasa money to do a song against Chaponda, he will do exactly that unashamedly.

 

The way of Kenyatta Hill


Joseph Hill, the fallen reggae hero whose son Kenyatta and wife Pauline were in town a few weeks ago should be smiling from above.

There are several Jamaican reggae artists that have died. One that quickly comes to mind is Gregory Anthony Isaacs, a reggae legend who had released over 500 albums in his career. He lived from July 15, 1951 to October 25, 2010.

Of course before Isaacs, four years earlier Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill died after collapsing following a performance in Berlin on August 19, 2006.

Unlike Gregory Isaacs, Joseph Hill is one lucky fellow as his son is continuing doing the work he died doing on that fateful August day.

What is even more reassuring is that Kenyatta is performing with the original Culture members that include his Uncle Albert Walker and Telford Nelson.

Early June, the group performed at Mibawa Multipurpose Hall in Blantyre and Civo Stadium in Lilongwe a day later.

I attended the Blantyre show where in the process people who had entered the show venue with ulterior motives robbed me of my smart phone and a cash filled wallet right at the time when Kenyatta ascended unto the stage to perform.

If his performance was going to be a display of mediocrity then this would have been the longest night.

In any case the theft I suffered would have given me the perfect cue to exit the venue and drive back home. It was never to be and later after the show I felt more than compensated for my loss.

Kenyatta respected his fallen iconic reggae legendary father with dynamite packed performance. It dawned on those of us who exult good music that the legend of Joseph Hill lives on as he will continue bubbling on the top 100 forever and ever not only through his body of work but also through his son’s awe-inspiring musical performance.

Kenyatta has his father’s voice only that his has more clout and dynamism that he packages with youthful energy and electrifying stage presence.

For years, he has been his father’s sound engineer and this is also well demonstrated in the way he controls, not only the band, but the two elderly backing duo that has traversed the world with his father.

To imagine that he had only practiced with the band which had South African based members for a few hours, what followed spoke volumes of the kind of future that is in store for the young Hill.

He also displayed discipline that is only present in professional artists. If you must know, Kenyatta has three albums to his name, released after the death of his father. Never in a moment did he play any of the songs that he has done as a solo project.

When the sound was not coming out the way he liked he would stop the performance in the way that looked like it was part of the act. He was holding a short carved black stick that he was systematically using to tell one on bass what he wanted. He was in fact using the stick to communicate to the whole band.

Listening to his performance one would have thought it was Joseph Hill with improved rendition of his tracks. Under the prevailing circumstances he performed like the spirit of his fallen father had entered him, more so with his mother sitting right on stage watching her son.

Those artists that curtain raised the show like members of the Black Missionaries and Mr. Cool; I should believe learnt a lesson or two.

We have had children of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh’s son Andrew and even Garnet Silk Junior performing after the fall of their fathers. None has come so near to the perfection of the works of their fathers as has Kenyatta, he has his unique way.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wadusa pompa Rivalry


The first time I ever remember of rivalry over one particular song is when Annie Matumbi did collaboration with Nelson Katsache to hit back at Peter Mawanga who did a track called Amakhala ku Blantyre as Peter Paine.

Apparently Peter sang that people just claim to live a city life in Blantyre when they are suffering some undignified lives of penury and homelessness. In turn Matumbi and Nelson sang back by claiming people in Blantyre live a high life where living is not as bad as depicted in Mawanga’s song.

As the story had it, Peter sought redress from Cosoma which ended up banning the other track as it was adjudged to breach some copyrights tenets.

Now the twin duo of Wiza and Westa whose showbiz ID is W-Twice joined forces with Nepman to do a track called ‘Wadutsa Pompa’  which is found in their Afana Chimodzimodzi Mixtape of 2015.

In turn five girls – Fortune who featured Danish, Kwin Bee, Enweezy and Ewe did a ‘Wadutsa Pompa’ remix which they called ‘Ndadutsa Pompo’ which is a similar attempt to discredit the earlier works of W-Twice and Nepman as was the case with the Mawanga-Matumbi act.

Just like Matumbi and Kasatche lacked in delivery in terms of creativeness and refinement, the same is way too present in the track by the five ladies.

The original track – both the audio and the video – stands out as it is presented with more finesse and measured jaunt befittingly ensconced in an accompanying ‘Manganje’ beat that sustains its taste. It is very clear that it was planned and this is why it is coherent and organised work while the girls rushed with their ‘corresponding’ track.

The girls’ track bordered on a tasteless beef aimed at showing the side of female folks that feeds into stereotypes that women are fond of shooting their mouths off. Listening to the track you will appreciate that there is too much voluble anger and raucous noise to compete with a piece of art where Nepman was at his usual best as the twins weaved their way through perfectly well.

Without trying to take it away from the girls, they are talented lot yes but they should have taken their time to ensure that the remix cover was as artistically tight as it was attractively appealing. The reason it has become famous across the ghettos is because of people’s love of ‘conflict’ and ‘chaos’.

Even down the market street when a woman is shouting at a man, people will flock to the spot, as houseflies do to a rotten carcass, just to enjoy the unfolding drama. No way would such a rowdy woman lay claim that she is loved by such a curious crowd that pander to scandal and escapism.

For the sake of entertainment as it is the case elsewhere with vibrant entertainment economies, a remix on a controversial song is serious business. It calls for more innovation as it is taken like a special project.

If you are watching me, I have not touched on the copyright matter because I believe Fortune might have sorted out copyright issues with W-Twice as she also featured in another track in this mix tape called ‘Bulangete’ which is another cover of one of Malawi’s oldies, meaning she is a buddy to the twins.

 

Sangie was overbilled


Granted, Sangie – the emerging reggae artiste– has graced the billboards where she is selling a number of telecommunication products and services. She has stormed the male dominated musical stage with a litany of single hits that have made Sangie the household name.

The artist missed by a whisker the Nyasa Music Award in the Best Female Artist category which was controversially won by Miracle Chinga.

All this makes a great reading when one attempts to profile Sangie – real name Angel Mbekeani – as her age and her musical achievements makes it sound like a fairy tale.

However that alone does not say a great deal on how much mileage she has in the inventory in as far as her musical output is concerned. Such lack of knowledge in this aspect therefore can be the case with those that organised her maiden album Painless launch on June 30 at Cross Roads hotel’s biggest of stages – The Great Sapitwa Hall.

Signs and signals ought to have been weighed when the organisers decided to put a price tag on event.

Of course when you read different reviews there is none that has pointed out the aspect of weaknesses in the way the launch was organised as every one is saying it was well patronised by a variety of fans that ranged from the youth, middle aged and the elderly. And that all performers ‘slayed it’.

The patronage was mesmerised by her music, backed by the Dynamics Band. All the singles that she has been dropping ever since her career commenced three years ago that include I do it all for love, Ndangozizidwa, Mayi wangwiro and all others made the list.

A track called ‘Pepa’ which in the album features Lulu was also performed on day of the launch.

The fact that the launch was supported by established artists Lawrence Lulu Khwisa and Patience Namadingo did not help matters as they seem to have stolen the lime light from the hostess.

No wonder there is talk that the reception that the audience gave Namadingo was overwhelming that when he was about to get things really going power miraculously went off. And that was the uncharacteristic end of the show.

Of course I have heard that the price tag was targeting her corporate audience because of her involvement with Airtel and Itel as well as several events she has been engaged in with bodies like UNICEF prior to the launch.

The genre that Sangie plays is ghetto music, this I can say any time without any apologies. The reggae fans refer to the so called corporate as Babylon. Much as the marketing strategy ought to indeed reap from such special group of people it is a fact that it needed to consider the aspect of her genre’s niche market whose economic standing cannot allow them attend such gatherings.

I am told plans are underway to re-launch the album in Mzuzu and Blantyre respectively and this is perhaps where organisers should not be over ambitious again.

Sangie is a product of the Ndirande Ghettoh and the fans that have helped her become what she is cannot be left out now that the team that is managing her thinks she has all over sudden become an expensive product.

This is her debut album and this is Sangie that only started music in earnest in 2014. She is the same person whose childhood playmates and cronies still reside in Ndirande or other such places of equal socio-economic status.

Not that I am discouraging her and the team to be ambitious but all I am pointing out is that they need not kill her drive by overbilling her. She is still a tyro who needs more shows, more exposure and of course more stage practice and coaching before she is ripe for the higher price.