Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Malawi’s Mabiringanya Dancehall


Coincidence or call it chance, led me to a discovery of Jamaica’s ragga, or commonly known as dancehall music but done by Malawian youth which is under the banner of ‘Mabiringanya’. 
By the way Mabiringanya is the chiChewa word for eggplants. I am not sure why this is the name chosen, but one thing for sure is that the artists playing under the banner are so excellently talented and their videos are artistically done that they defy belief.
Under this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI8vOt6tpSU&feature=related there is a track called ‘Kamete Tsitsi’ which the video indicates was done by two artists known by their showbiz names, ‘Mad Doctor’ and ‘Khobaliro’.
Under the same Mabiringanya Empire banner there is a track called ‘Facebook’ by Mafunyeta which you can listen to on and watch on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh32JW-qlgI
Then there is a track called ‘Wangongole’ which can be listened to and watched as well on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lBXTAXr0eQ&feature=related and is done by artists ‘Dotolo’ who is also appearing like ‘Mad Doctor’.
When you listen to all these tracks, plus many more that I have not mentioned here, like one called ‘Simple Life’, you will discover that dancehall element in all these tracks is very evident and the artists involved are very talented. This talent is not only in the way the music is produced, but even in its lyrical content.
Check the track ‘Simple Life’ which goes like:
 ‘Simple life ndimene ndi ma lida’, ‘Akatiwona kukhalira kumangotida.’
Another track ‘Swagger Dance’ says: “Aliyense akudziwa lero kuvuta”
“Kuvinitsana Swagger dance mpaka thukuta”.     
The same is in the track called Kamete Tsitsi: “Pasukulu pano ineyo ndine Sala”, “Sindimafuna Tsitsi choncho ngati wamisala”, “Kamete Khobaliro sala Dotolo walamula”,“Ukapanga Chibwana iwe ukakumba dzala”.
Well, my point here is not to dwell too much on the excellent dancehall pieces by Mabiringanya but I want to discuss the message and influence.
Let me start by looking at dancehall which started in Jamaica in late 1970s to early 1980s because so many of the records were deemed unfit for radio airplay and therefore were suitable only for the dancehall.
It was born out of reggae because the artists of dancehall represented a new generation of reggae’s primary audience reclaiming the music for themselves after ten years of roots and culture. Reggae purists were furiously debating as to whether dancehall was genuinely reggae or not. To date this remains a bone of contention.

The Jamaican audiences wanted records that were raw and producers like Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes and King Jammy made deejay, as this is what the artists of dancehall or ragga are called, like Yellowman, Josey Wales, Lone Ranger, Eek-A-Mouse and Brigadier Jerry.
The birth of dancehall also helped in exposing singers such as Barrington Levy, Little John, Cocoa Tea and Frankie Paul who had been struggling to be heard.

The danger that dancehall brought though, was its radical approach aimed at shaking reggae out of its seeming complacency and it opted for the apparently loathsome, to satisfy nobody beyond the sound system crowds.
It was aided by rapidly developing studio technology which made records quicker and cheaper.
The big disadvantage was that deejays became more focused on violence, with Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra, Ninjaman and Buju Banton becoming major figures in the genre.
In 1992, the international backlash to Banton's violently anti-homosexual "Boom Bye-Bye", and the reality of Kingston's violence fanned by dancehall saw the deaths of deejays Pan Head and Dirtsman.
And slowly in the mid-1990s with the rise of dancehall BoboShanti artists, such as Sizzla and Capleton, a very strong connection between dancehall and Rastafari was developed.
Because of the emergence of the new generation of singers and deejays that harked back to the roots reggae era, notably the late Garnett Silk, Rocker T, Tony Rebel, Sanchez, Luciano, and Anthony B, prominent Buju Banton and Capleton who were violence ambassadors began to cite Rastafari and turn their lyrics and music in a more conscious, rootsy direction.
When you listen to artistically weaved lyrics by Malawi’s dancehall act Mabiringanya, you are to notice that they are still stuck with the violence element that was the moniker of dancehall at the time it was starting in Jamaica.
Look at the track ‘Wangongole’ by Mabiringanya, its video, apart from being a good dancehall production, is an encouragement of violence to those that owe you money. The youths in the video are welding machetes, spears, bow and arrows while dragging and roughing up the person owing money to the other.
Despite skilful dancing in the dancehall tracks by Mabiringanya, the element of violence is very present.
I believe Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) needs to take a role in directing such good talent towards good.
Looking at the Mabiringanya videos you cannot rule out the huge influence it is going to have on the country’s youth, but the violence would be undoing all efforts to create a better Malawi through music.
Believe it or not, dancehall has a huge influence on the youth, and good pieces of dancehall music like the Mabiringanya dancehall act I am talking about, can have a rapturous influence.
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