The Zathu Band Experiment

I had the opportunity to watch Zathu Band perform for MBC’s Made On Monday musical programme in Blantyre but for whatever reasons I could not make it. Fortunately I chanced upon the programme on MBC TV on Saturday.

It is not like it is first time that I have had the opportunity to listen and watch Zathu Band perform. In fact I have been meaning to write about the band from the first time that I came across their music.

Now that I have heard them talk on the programme now it confirms my first impression.

Whoever was in charge of the auditions to identify the six members of the group that include: Xander (Paul Kachala), Annetti (Nyokase Madise), Mphatso (Theresa Dzanjalimodzi), Chikondi (Esther Chitheka-Luis) T-Reel (Praise Umali) and JP (Jonathan Pangani) did a good job.

These six individuals have talent which is unique to specific personality and the band has offered a platform to allow for its fusion which has further enabled the direction that the production of the band has taken, which is to amalgamate different genres in order to create one identifiable one.

What hit me the first time I listened to the songs from the band was that it was more like a one-stop-genres production where one cannot confidently declare the songs as urban or traditional.

What is clear is that much as there has been an attempt to provide the urban feel, the element of the local traditional sound cannot escape the ear.

The aim for creating Zathu Band was to bring boys and girls together to create a new sound for Malawi and indeed for me this new sound the band has created.

Imagine if let’s say the band is one made up if different talent of the following keel: Xander is Lulu, T-Reel is Macelba, JP is Skeffa Chimoto, Chikondi is Alicia Keys, Mphatso is Brenda Fassie and Annetti is Asa that Soul artist famed for her track Fire on the Mountain.

And all these diverse talents was one group. Ladies and gentlemen this is Zathu Band. Take time to listen to their music. By the way they have just released a 12-track-album Chinzathu Ichichi.

Besides the intentions of this band whose members are also a cast for a radio play that is trying to reach out to fellow youth as they try to hear out their challenges and find solutions for them, the quality of their music is something to talk about in a special breath.

If the youths in this country want to take a musical path, let them take a professionally dignified route. As I complain all the time, we are continuously being given a raw deal by a lot of pretenders.

For me I know very little about the band in terms of its nature of formation. Thus is it a project and if it is, how is it going to nurture these individual talents to reach great heights? Music in Malawi can be so tough if it is meant to provide the bread and butter. The question is how are these members sustaining themselves? Are they on contract? And who is their boss in this case? How happy are they with their package if any?

Again the most pertinent question is that one element that qualified them to be in the group is their youthful status. Unfortunately soon they will grow into men and women and will become less relevant to the cause.

How is the mission going to be sustained? Are they (I don’t know them apparently) going to audition another batch of youthful talent to replace them?

However has answers would really do me kind if they provided them for me and my readers. Otherwise without even any hint of doubt I would declare that Zathu Band is an admixture of super talent that needs to be perpetuated by all means necessary.

The Zathu Band experiment has yielded positive results it’s time to replicate it.


Norfas Nkoma of Walala

Today I want to take you on a journey to a musical place I have always protected. Why so? Well, because it gives me fond and haunting memories. Every time I hark back to this period it shows me the face of music.

This is my personal story. It is one that I believe talks of how my musical gods were revoked and appeased. To date I should believe I am still doing enough to my musical ancestors.

The year should have been in 1988 and I was 14 years old and in Standard 7. Both my parents are retired teachers which meant that we would be at different places. At this time we were at Namaka or Kachingwe. This is a place along the Blantyre Zomba Road in Chiradzulu. You can reach this place by branching off to the right when coming from Blantyre at Nyungwe or Mbulumbuzi, otherwise known as 6B.

My exposure to music, as was the case with all and sundry at that time was at the mercy of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). It was the only available source or through shortwave radio frequency once in a while and this had to be BBC or Radio Nampura of Mozambique. Channel Africa was also offering occasional music every evening.

At the height of this period I cannot recall how it happened, but I befriended a standard 8 dude by the name of Norfas Nkoma. He introduced me to reggae and its associated Rasta livity through provisions of handwritten literature which he painstakingly copied from books. I was also meant to copy and return them.

I remember that day I was forced to travel on foot a distance of almost 20 kilometres from this spot to his village in Walala Poya where he gave me the materials, unbeknownst to my parents and siblings.

From this literature, I read about Leonard Percival Howell, the founding father of Rastafari, the First Rasta and the Original Gong who inspired Bob Marley with his message that ended up gifting the world with reggae music as we know it today. I also learnt a lot about Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a proponent of Africanism and many more.

Now in the absence of music – I mean reggae music – this history could not sink in and therefore I needed music. But as Malawians had no access to music it proved difficult.

But as fate had it my father happens to be one of the first teachers of Malawi Correspondence College (MCC). Because they had radio programmes they were making provisions of radio cassette players in such institutions.

Besides this, my father had a vinyl record player which was a rectangular box sitting on four legs called radiogram. Well, my father’s taste of music included those of Jim Reeves, Super Mazembe of Zambia and believe it or not Jimmy Cliff, among others.

It was always Jimmy Cliff’s version of ‘No Woman No Cry’ on the LP that really made me move. But then I met another son of a teacher at the institution who was an elder, Grey Mabvumbe who first borrowed me iconic Gregory Isaacs cassette albums which I would listen to by playing them on the MCC cassette players/recorders from my father’s work place.

With exposure to a lot of reggae music as I grew up – briefly in Nkhatabay when teachers were repatriated back to their respective region of origin in 1989 through to my sojourn at Masongola Secondary School in Zomba – my musical life completely transformed.

Therefore for the last ten years that I have been running musical columns in the weekend newspapers of the country, whenever I sit down to write, my man Norfas Nkoma always comes to my mind.

I am still not sure where he is at the moment but I doff my hat to my musical father who took time to explain to a 14-year-old boy of the different genres of music that are there. I followed my ear to reggae music which opened a lot of doors for me to appreciate music in general.

Now this is one of my many personal stories to music that I thought I should share with you this week.


Hearkening unto the wilderness voice

Long at last someone has started talking exactly what I have been saying since closer to a decade ago when I started writing about music. Former Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume told President Peter Mutharika at a rally in Blantyre West that community colleges should start offering musical courses.

As far back as 2009 I argued my case that there has never been one single trade that has generated youthful interest in Malawi at any given time than what music has done.
It all began with the advent of multiparty system of government and that was in 1993. If my mathematics is perfect that has to be 17 years ago.

It is a shame that government has not realised how to work something out, institutions have come and gone all in the name of representing the interest of the youth in the country including the establishment of the so called National Youth Council whose objective of promoting promiscuity had been achieved before its dissolution.

When the first head of state was structuring our education system, he created technical colleges which are supposed to offer vocational courses.

In the wisdom of the time, learners had to be carved to become or based on trades like Carpentry and Joinery, Plumbing, Brick Laying, Painting and Decoration, Plumbing, Motor Vehicle Mechanic, Auto-electrician, Electricians, General fitters etc.

If we look at these trades critically, we would realise that it was meant to build the country.

Take for example, construction of a government office structure or workshop. First to be on the ground would be brick layers before technicians that had mastered carpentry and joinery put their hands to work, then plumbers and electricians would appear on the scene before those in painting and decoration.

The same would happen to our houses; and for the workshops we had the motor vehicle mechanics, auto-electricians, and general fitters etc.

What was also happening was that once the learners had completed a course, they would be given a tool box with which they will use to start small scale workshops or joined established institutions with similar pursuant.

Just like a house, a song is also built with the involvement of different skills.
The technical colleges with music trade has to start with the elementary lessons in music in the first year, while in the second year, learners can choose who they want to become.

Guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, trombonists, percussionists, keyboardists or pianists should be one group while the other group should concentrate on music production, the third on music engineering in terms of studio recording while the other group should dwell on marketing.

Imagine if graduating learners were to undergo this kind of process and given the start-up equipment after their courses, believe you me, we would not have been talking of mediocre music that dominates our market.

There is one major challenge that technical college students face which is the competition from ‘bush’ artisans.

There are bush mechanics, bush carpenters etc. These are people who are accomplished at doing their work in particular trades, when they have never been inside a classroom. The same challenge would still be faced even when music was to be introduced in the technical colleges.

Nonetheless, this is the best way to assist the youth; considering that even initiatives like Youth Enterprise Development Fund is something borne out of political whims and therefore has no plan on how best it has to be executed.

Seriously, government has to make use of Bachelor of Arts graduates from the Chancellor Constituent College of the University of Malawi who major in music but do not know what to do next with it.

If government would invest in music, they would be surprised that many things would solve themselves because the youth would have the chance to study something in which they have a passion for and like Jamaica Malawi can start exporting music. Programmes that are initiated to change harmful behaviours of the youth would also reduce. Conduct a feasibility study to prove me wrong please!

Nothing was said by anyone until Peter Kumpalume. Now I wait for the Government to move.

Let’s Talk about Waxy K

Wonderful Kapenga, otherwise known as Waxy K is a local hip-hop artist that came into the limelight when he was only 16 back in 2015. Today at 19 he is still a child star who has squeezed into the top notch on the-who-is-who-list of the current crop of urban artistes.

There are a few things that has made him stand out, his funny looking small stature; funny because it does not correlate with his talent as a rapper whose lyrical prowess has left the old scratching their heads while his peers trying to jump out of their bodies.

His signature entry ‘Ndikhonza kuyamba’ whenever he is about to start dropping bars including clever verses that follow has separated the child star from the noises that have choked the local urban music industry.

His punchlines are a typical imagination of a genius where he will use words that rhyme. Take a peek at these lines from his track Zazii:

Zazii zomveka mkazi Mphete

Kumamusiya kupita kumowa on the Payday

Zazii zomatumizilana ma nude

Zazii zomakhala kwamakolo anudi

At the moment Waxy K is hot property and with the influence that he is commanding there is no doubt that if he were a 16-year-old Justin Bieber of those days, he would be a millionaire.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

For Waxy K the situation is even tricky when one considers that his father is a cleric in the Believers Assembly church but he accepted his son’s talent and even started financially supporting his in his secular music career.

Several interviews that I have heard the child star speak has told me that if only he were to have a manager who has a vision there is a huge chance that great things are waiting to happen for him.

In one such interviews he says he sings songs that should appeal, and benefit people which is more Gospel work to me than singing Alleluia in a church.

He is scheduled to release an EP but he has already conquered and he confidently declares that if the local music industry hold hands then they will be able to beat the international market.

He also has the spirit of protecting his talent by declaring whenever opening his compositions: ‘Zoti wina wake apemphe remix nyimboyi sindikufuna ayi’.

His reasoning is that once a composition has been made he doesn’t want any dirty hands infecting it with germs.

The excitement that comes with the little success somehow brings disaster. And for Waxy K the fame that he has earned could also be a pitfall that could stop his career in its tracks even before it has started.

His talent also requires a special nourishment that should provide it with a kind of growth that should allow him flourish and become a big star that he desires to become.

It will be a mockery to compare Waxy K with former child stars Millera Nkhoma and late Israel Chatama. For Millera there was no vision on how she wanted to carry on with her career. For Chatama it looks like with fame there was too much adult influence which led to his quick demise.

With such lessons all over, it would be disheartening for Waxy K to be a shinning star that never was when he fails before he achieves. With what he has achieved so far, he is an attraction to many things which are unfortunately both positive and negative.

Lyrical Pen’s top 2017 Stars

So much happened in the music cycles in 2017 and the pen was really busy. Along the way the Pen angered local Hip-Hop star Fredokiss for what it felt was his unprofessional and childish conduct but the fact remained that he stole the limelight in the year.

Much as everyone else did their best, there can always be one winner with the pen as is the case with any other awards and recognitions. I might not be in agreement with several people but according the Lyrical Pen, these were its 2017 stars. Anybody can come up with their list.

TOP ENTERTAINMENT ACT – Patience Namadingo

Unlike other musical awards organisers who struck off initial awardees from the list because they had disagreed, it is not the case with the Lyrical Pen. At the moment the pen has issues with Namandingo for painting the whole media fraternity on Facebook with one brush of condemnation for a mix-up of his mother’s picture in one daily.

Regardless of this fact this has been Patience’s year. We saw a different brand of the all new Namadingo that performed to mammoth crowds in Blantyre and Lilongwe venues. He also worked wonders singing in different places to raise money for the Queen Elizabeth Children Cancer Ward. He also showed the world the comedian in him. For all this he is the pen’s top entertainer for 2017.


The pen concluded that Ellias Missi known in showbiz cycles as Atoht Manje shot himself to the top of the game.

Not many really considered Atoht as one to make a mark amongst the youthful musical group of Lilongwe where he emerged from until he started dropping tracks like Majelasi, Lululu, Tizipepese, and etcetera.

Atoht is endowed with a crackly voice which is suitable for dancehall or ragga genre. The tracks like Majelasi and Lululu really came riding this genre until Tizipepese, which his fans call Mabvuto came in. It’s fast pace bordering on something that can best be equalled to a Congo beat or merely a local hurried up beat like fast paced Manganje as he would love to call it.

When one listens to Atoht’s productions with a trained ear, you would easily notice that his lyrical structure is messed up. He literally follows his heart, the result of which is a general appeal to his fans but an immediate shock to music teachers.

The same applies with Che Patuma, the track that he made to grab the top musician for Malawi in 2017 according to the pen.


The pen settles for Fredokiss not to appease him for getting angry at its ‘venomous’ ink, but because he proved that the local hip-hop genre is so influential that it would be foolish for anyone to pay it a blind eye.

He held three free shows in Ndirande, Masintha and Mzuzu where he parked the venues in a way that no meeting, be it political or religious could achieve. With politics and religion you know their manipulative power where they will try to profess popularity by parking vehicles with people that they ferry to such spots for obvious reasons. For Fredokiss it was just consumers of his niche products walking by foot to the venue.


In the year, Fredokiss who is also known as Ghetto King Kong released hit song “Njira Zawo” which features Lucius Banda. This is the rendition of Lucius’ “Ali ndi njira Zawo”. An additional to Dear Jah Jah, another hit.


TOP LOCAL ALBUM – Sunset in the Sky

Lawi’s second musical toil in ‘Sunset in the Sky’ is the pen’s pick for the best local album of the year slot. The album launched at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) on 2nd December in Lilongwe is a show of artistic progress of one talented artiste.


The Afro-Soul musician and producer has in the album tracks like Timalira, Dance with me, Therere and Yalira Ng’oma to mention but a few. The album has 25 tracks in total that touch on spirituality, life and wide range of issues.

The album has taken a good four years to put together and the proof of well thought composition is evident, making Lawi a top brand.

Jah Prayzah’s Pleasant Christmas Present

The Blantyre Sports Club performance by Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah’s was a perfect Christmas gift to music lovers in Blantyre. The fans had to brave the initial downpour just to make sure that they watch the Zimbabwean son.

His electrifying performance was a perfect gift as it took the fans from Christmas Eve across into Christmas Day without them knowing how time had flown past with such speed.

His bellowing voice thundered off the greens of the Golf course where the stage was mounted but still shook into life some of the patrons who had taken one too many and had dozed off.

Jah Prayzah showed why he has shared time in recording studios with Africa’s current greats, Yemi Alade, Diamond Platnumz, Davido, Mafikizolo, Oliver Mtukudzi etc…

The Zimbabwean contemporary musician, with his Third Generation Band, with their signature band uniform of military regalia, went to work and as professionals. And as professionals they never relented neither did they gave out anything half-baked.

One thing decidedly noticeable is that Jah Prayzah is not just a contemporary African musician but he equally and perfectly holds on to a true African roots by not only word of mouth but he sings this African identity. He sings in no any other language but Shona. He promotes the Zimbabwe Mbira genre without stint or limit. In Blantyre he did just that. Occasionally he would play on Mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe which is the main stay for the Mbira genre.

Everything about his music, in terms of lyrics, the African beat and presentation is undoubtedly African the only freestanding aspect that can safely not be linked to his huge African theme is his performance name Jah Prayzah which sounds Jamaican. Of course his band name is also strangely English – Third Generation Band.



Godwin Muzari Arts Editor for The Herald wrote that it is hard to ignore Jah Prayzah’s music in the era of Zimbabwe’s political transition and that his songs, especially “Kutonga Kwaro” which means “How a leader rules”, are being played everywhere.


Muzari further wrote that since every revolution is oiled by music that resonates with winds of change, Jah Prayzah’s album “Kutonga Kwaro”, which was released 43 days before Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president, has dovetailed with the greatest political development since the country’s independence which he said was the resignation of Robert Mugabe.

Just to emphasize how he wants his music to strictly hold on to African signature, Jah Prayzah did a collaboration which features in his sixth studio  album “Jerusarema” with the Jamaican reggae great Luciano but all his contributions in this track are in Shona.

Looking at how things are flowing for him, one would expect Jah Prayzah to be contented with his rich vein of form and therefore going into his head by way of his actions.

On the stage at the Blantyre Sports Club, the fans witnessed the performance of a down to earth artiste whose humility was unbelievable especially looking at the sizeable crowd, by the Blantyre Sports Club standard – that had come to see and dance to his tunes.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces gave Jah Prayzah an ambassadorial role which compels him to demystify the army and destroy the fear that is generally associated with them.

Through his music and energy filled live performances, Jah Prayzah aims to deliver this message and in Blantyre in the wee hours of the Christmas night he perfectly did this by performing a fusion of military brass band marching sound that sat well with his Mbira genre for the joy of the fans that came for his performance.

It was a performance so unique that the earlier glitches witnessed at the beginning of the show were all erased and people will give their attention again to Agulugufe 1200 Limited when they will bring another top notch musician to Malawi.


Setting up benchmarks for Malawi Music

In Malawi scenario or the rest of the world quality control in this case refers to letting our music pass some form of litmus test…

Most radio and TV stations complain that they receive an uncountable music compact disks or sometimes tapes brought by every Jack and Jill who say are musicians or singers in need of airplay.

Without trying to play a condescending card to the owners of music outlets, meaning those that have radio, TV stations or entertainment joints or public spaces like buses that play music, I think if we are to have quality music, then we need to set up standards.

Once singers and musicians bring their music, it must be passed through a rigorous due process where it has to pass all or 90 percent of the prerequisites drawn on the checklist.

The purpose of all this is to certify quality; some hints could be to look at the quality of sound i.e. is it filling the whole eardrum? On the other hand, is it trying to pull off the ear? Is it going to ‘infect’ the eardrum or just use it as a passage as it soothes the soul?

When listening to it are you feeling ashamed that the so called musician or singer only exposed their mediocrity?

Are the vocals showing that the one behind it was gasping for air? What about vocal variations, is it blending with the instrumentation? Is the music some common organised noise?

I know there could be many areas to look into before venturing into unknown terrain. At the end of the day standard and quality enforcement should be the order.

There are some operatives in the radio and TV stations, and even entertainment joints that, at the expense of their jobs, let gluttony scarlet red in the teeth.

Those that can be easily caught; you find every time this unexceptional artist comes to the premises they always demand to hand in their stuff to the very particular radio or TV presenter or the people who play music in entertainment joints.

This kind of greed is not motivational in the would be musician and it encourages them to go to a person who has a mixer placed in his dining room on his dining table linked with a ‘scraggy’ boom microphone.

Within two hours the so called musician will gurgle out noise, which the man owning the dining table and the mixer placed on it, will mix the panting sound with some computer programmes that will give it a drumbeat, accompanied by sounds of guitars and percussions.

All this will be happening on the back of an outcry that Malawi music has and still is struggling to get a place on the international market.

Some have been attributing this failure to lack of establishment of a unique music genre but this earns my disagreement because this happens because artists do not know what they want to achieve.

Our artists will rarely exercise measured patience when producing their music, even those that are nationally acclaimed, as our top musicians have no patience to take time before releasing anything and there for quality is always compromised.

Radio stations will always have no problems with this, as they will establish several programme specifically designed to ‘promote’ this kind of local music. If what is meant is to be achieved is really to promote, then I have a problem with the mediocrity they are championing.

If by accident or chance a member of an international music-promoting firm is visiting the country or any of the websites that have some of the local radios that are streaming online and catches the hurriedly prepared musical stuff, will they really be encouraged to come and promote it for the international market?

If we are to achieve quality as a country and promote local music, then local radio and TV stations and entertainment joints in collaboration with organisations dealing in and with music and musical artists have to set up benchmarks, which have to be used if music produced has to gain airplay.

These outlets need to critically look at the music videos produced other than broadcasting or playing anything they lay their hands on.

Even the news producers for all media platforms should not always carry stories for mediocre performers who just visit newsrooms, declare they are musicians, and get story space.

Entertainment writers have to listen to the music of an artist before they can start glorifying mediocrity. We can do better with quality control in the music Industry.