Sam Simakweli’s attempt at resurrecting Chaphuka


Paul Chaphuka remains an enigma because he came at a time when there was the rebirth of Malawi music. His one and only album ‘Ndichiritseni’ released at the time he had just died on May 11, 1997 was only made possible by legendary brothers Paul and Lucius Banda. What would have become, had he not succumbed to skin cancer is a subject of conjecture.

But his album is marked in the all highly treasured archives as one of Malawi’s classic music production, albeit going with the equally pioneering all famous Balaka genre.

Chaphuka’s career started – or it is better known to have started – when he played with Mte Wambali Mkandawire and as an instrumentalist he used to play the bass guitar a departure well registered when he joined Alleluya Band where he was now playing lead guitar.

The album had many captivating tracks like Nkhoswe, title track Ndichiritseni – which of course is a Chichewa rendition of Alpha Blondy’s song ‘Heal Me’ found in the album Dieu. Just like Alpha Blondy who suffered a mental breakdown that prompted the release of the track in 1994, Chaphuka too, having realised of his ill health sought God’s healing power. As they say the rest is history; while Blondy survived, for Chaphuka, it was never to be.

Lucius and Paul had to finish the album and together included a tribute Tsalani in the album. This is all to give you a picture of the priceless sentimental value that this album has.

Now why I am all rumbling about Chaphuka today is because Sam Simakweli has taken a ‘leap of faith’ and done a rendition of one of Chaphuka’s great hits in the album called Mavuto Tawaona.

It is this one that has brought us to talk about Chaphuka in light of this production from Simakweli who currently brands as Sam Smack.

When you understand the pain and richness of this song just like the rest of the tracks in the album, you realise that it would require a special reason to do a rendition.

The place to look for such a special reason is obviously in the released newest production and my effort to look for one in Simakweli’s Mavuto Tawaona did not help matters as it left me with mixed feelings.

To begin with, this is a classic that, much as effort would be made to modernise it, there is still need to preserve its touch. This without doubt should have been achieved with Simakweli’s golden voice. But for whatever reason he decided to sound like a Nyanja speaking Zambian.

Smacks is one of the six-pointed stars in the local urban genre and if any attempt was made to do a Chaphuka rendition everyone would give it to him if he so decided to bring in the urban elements. Now he does so by bringing in a guy I am hearing for the first time called Michale Es.

My problem is not because I have never heard of this guy before. But here is my explanation:

There is a ring to all the classic tracks that are redone by modern artists. They tend to resurrect the old, by making it to the top of numerous charts. The reason Simakweli’s effort on this Chaphuka track has not made necessary noise is because it has not brought any fresh impetus to the resounding following that the initial track attracted.

Most of the old folks who fell in love with Chaphuka’s original toils feel short-changed especially with the rapping which, as most of our rappers do, did not bother to make sense and bring clarity to own lyrics thereby degrading itself to the levels of noise.

In short, with the bar that was set by Chaphuka, any attempt to redo his work should be well thought of and should not come in half measures. Unfortunately this one has.

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2 thoughts on “Sam Simakweli’s attempt at resurrecting Chaphuka

  1. To start with let me correct you editor. The history is changing by just having stereophonic thinking that exactly who finished the project are ONLY the people you mentioned. When you write the events that took place it is important you do not change the history….it is our worry that writing is changing how things happened. Go back and inquire Please!!!!! It is also our worry that apart from driving people to real issues of focus people are given second hand issues of focus to discuss other than real issues that could make sense to discuss on an event this I mean by just writing or discussing about how the rendition has left a lot to be desired, the article is endorsing the activity of doing it rather than the legality of doing such which is our concern nowadays. Not long time ago, Evison Matafele’s relatives were chasing San B for re-branding/ redoing their deceased relative work without permission or obtaining rights for such works. I would prefer that people give real sides of discussions than those that will not help at all.

    In another dimension one writer in a Malawi News writes The coming of Balaka Reggae which I took time to read but I could not get sense in it…..The write says The Sleeping Cat song in Mwanayo Album as one wrong information giving. The Sleeping Cat is Charles Sinetres song from Dalitsani Dziko album and Mwanayo is Paul Bandas album what a confusing story is this?. In the History of Malawi music when you talk of Balaka Reggae there are no names like Joseph Nkasa, and the others mentioned at random papers, what is it that you call Balaka Reggea is not know here….Is Balaka Reggae the studio? The music people played or what????? Let me be schooled???? What is Balaka Reggae???

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    1. I hear you Dongo…I should apologize if indeed we write while devoid of the real information. On this track Simakweli says he got the right to do a rendition, unless you have information to prove this to the contrary. You seem to have information on these matters but you haven’t shared them with us. Do you mind sharing Sir? Otherwise I thank you so much for your feedback.

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