Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Friday, February 22, 2013

A peep into Lucius’ 17th Toils


You cannot ignore Lucius Banda. Whether you love or hate him you will still pay attention when he makes any slight move. I came to this conclusion long time ago. I have done my share of critiquing his work because I could not help it.

But unlike some artists who would have taken my critical analysis with a pinch of salt and turned me into a nemesis, Lucius is what he is a professional and did it differently.

He invited me to observe what gruelling engagement studio work is and therefore let me with more opportunity to be able to punch more holes in his work of musical art when he was doing his 16th Album, titled ‘LIFE’.

This is the album, remember, that awakened the censorship board bull dogs as then the regime of late President Bingu wa Mutharika was unpopular and unknowingly gave Lucius free advertising through continuous vilification of his toils, before banning airplay of his music on public media outlets.

Now he is recording his seventeenth album ‘Time’ which I believe borrows its cue from the track ‘Nthawi’ in the "15/15: My Song" album.

I have the opportunity to listen to four tracks that he has released for sampling and they include ‘Missing Lucky’, ‘Mphawi Uja’, ‘Paulendo’ and ‘Tseketseke’.

I have a feeling that perhaps I need to hold my patience before I make my assessment, but just a peep into the album via the four tracks one would still be left with what I always call ‘the same Lucius Banda aftertaste’.
With going through 2012 without an album, expectations from his followers are higher than ever. But perhaps I can as well tell them that the star track in this album is not amongst the four tracks I have listened to.
May be except for the track ‘Mphawi Uja’ which shows how a powerful story teller Lucius is, where a poor boy marries a rich girl, he has reserved the best to be served later.
Lucius is in South Africa to polish his 17th album so that it shines like a diamond stone with the backing of The Slaves, the band that backed the slain reggae legendary Lucky Dube.
Of course he said by local standards the album is done and dusted with Ralph Ching’amba’s tricks. But he has even sought after more panache from the late Lucky Dube’s producer himself - Davie Seagal who together with our own Erik Paliani will do some more magic to satisfy any unappeasable music ear.
The Slaves will feature in three reggae songs Missing Lucky Dube (a tribute to Dube), Tell her I Love Her and Carry On. I have a difficult-to-please reggae ear and I can tell you that unless more is done on the Missing Lucky track, the likes of me won’t give it a thumb up; will give reasons when I will do an album review.
Then what is not present is perhaps that one track, the ‘Dub Reggae Poetry’ styled after the Mutabaruka or Linton Kwesi Johnson has not been released for sampling.

This time round, it is clear that the track will be ‘TIME’ going by tradition.

Now this is the trademark that Lucius impresses on his albums and with these particular tracks he tastes political, social and religious leadership.

Then, former President Bakili Muluzi used to take Lucius as just any other musician until these kinds of tracks pierced through his political cosset and made him feel uncomfortable and saw Lucius.

Mutharika felt the political heat that these Lucius tracks emitted but since him, unlike Muluzi is one who never wanted to endear his enemies, had no joy with Lucius Music and he banned it on MBC.

Believe you me; with ‘TIME’ it is now the turn of President Joyce Banda to have a feel of how Lucius keeps alive ‘dub-reggae poetry’ to say what the people want the presidents to hear.
Again this is a multi-genre album, and it goes against Lucius’ past declaration that he would go traditional and part ways with reggae.

He proclaimed that his trademark would now be songs like the ‘Zulu Woman’ found in his ‘Freedom’ album.

But as has been the case following this declaration – the tracks come in different shapes and shades.
Lucius says that apart from reggae tracks that have made it into the album, he has also incorporated two house songs, two traditional songs, three slow numbers, gospel songs as well as urban songs.
He calls it an album for everybody - ‘a multi-genre album’ – which also has a hip-hop song TsekeTseke.
And I am none-the-wiser because when he said he wanted to remain traditional, the feeling is that he wanted to be put in the class of Mte. Wambali Mkandawire and Peter Mawanga.
But I guess I can speculate the reason. He wants to make more money.
He has once acknowledged his lack of presence on the international market.

Lucius has once confessed that he really does not understand the Malawian audience and their needs, because when the compose songs with international class they will not like it.

“So, what you do sometimes is to put yourself in their shoes," Lucius has ever said this.
True to his words he has said top-notch artists like his brother, Paul, Ben Mankhamba, Wambali Mkandawire and Peter Mawanga do not make sales in Malawi.
Feedback:drummingpen@columnist.com

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