Towards the end of last year, six call boys who operate at Wenera bus depot brought their four tracks to my attention and it was unbelievable the kind of stuff that they have produced.
Of course they have been heavily influenced by the Jamaican reggae music listening to the four tracks, Kulibe Mdima, Dancehall-Dancehall, Matafale and Africa. As a musical grouping they are now going by the name of Manganga.
For those that have passed through Wenera to various destinations they might have come across of this itinerant grouping with drums of different sizes having been performing the kind of reggae music that is known as Nyabinghi chants that use three kinds of drums which are called “harps”.
The grouping had these harps of different sizes but they still include one that produces bass called the “Pope Smasher” or “Vatican Basher”, that goes together with the other drums; the middle-pitched Funde which plays a regular one-two beat and the bass drum that strikes loudly on the first beat and softly on the third beat of four; while the third one is Akete which is also known as the “repeater” because it plays an improvised syncopation.
The Nyabinghi chants also known as binghi is a kind of music that Rastas use when they congregate during their celebrations which are referred to as “groundations”.
Rastas say the rhythms of these chants were eventually an influence of popular ska, rocksteady and reggae music
Now the Manganga grouping having performed in different places with their drums decided to enter a musical studio to record their music which producer Uncle Layi has craftily infused with the sound from the drums to form something which is an allure to the ear.
It is an understatement to say that the boys are very talented. They are set to finish recording their album this year and launch it as well. They have made two videos of their released tracks which will indeed coagulate my observation that this is an unexpected music from an unexpected source.
Usually the call boys are associated with all sorts of bad things that one can talk of and listening to the message in their music you will be surprised that perhaps as a society we have been wrong to dismiss these boys and all those of their ilk that their brains have been rubbished with illegal substances and that their thinking would not be considered constructive.
Kulibe mdima is an interesting track that talks of where God dwells where there is no darkness. In the track there is a warning of those who think they can hide under the blanket of darkness to commit crimes arguing that there is no darkness in the eyes of God so stealing at night is as good as stealing in broad day light.
They also have a very strong social stand on issues especially when one listens to their track Matafale. It’s a desperate cry of lack of justice in the way the fallen local Reggae King Evison Matafale died in the hands of the Malawi Police.
With such talent in abundance the boys’ only inevitable pitfall is their tag. As call boys considered uneducated and uncultured it is clear that they move around with this stereotype and therefore live a life of noting giving a damn.
They have been doing band playing sessions in order to be a force that can conduct a live performance but if other members will not come drunk then others will not come at all. The band leader Robert Kanjira is passionate about making it big through hard work doing the music project they are trying to pursue.
But as the saying goes ‘a chain is no stronger than its weakest link’ this could be the grouping’s own undoing. Discipline is paramount to any successful enterprise. If they could just exercise some discipline 2019 could be a surprising musical year for Malawi.