Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fitting Songs in Political impasse

Granted, no one seems to know when next we are going to swear in our fifth President as it is now apparent that President Joyce Banda has done her God given two-year-term.

While people on all levels of life are trying to make sense of the political situation that the nation is faced with, the artists have shown that they do not want to be left behind.

You rarely hear about the ‘Soul Raiders’ – a Lilongwe based reggae band led by Prince Martin. Those that have followed Malawi reggae music would not need introduction of who Martin is.

Our musicians are known to get involved in politics, but it is usually when the campaigning in ongoing like the case of Lucius Banda and Joseph Nkasa for example.

But it is perhaps only late local Reggae King Evison Matafale who showed a way on how reactive artists can be to come up with prompt compositions based on the situation on our hand. Remember ‘Time Mark’ a track he did soon after the September 11, 2001 attack when terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners to strike targets in the United States where they killed nearly 3,000 people died.

The track got revs for its swiftness and the wit observed in its composition. Matafale who was known to play Reggae music that stuck to the Rub-A-Dub a style characterized by a powerful, round, low and deep bass, as well as a very simple drumming, with the bass drum and the snare drum alternating on the first beat of each bar. But with ‘Time Mark’ he brought an urgency to the track that made it look like the ‘ska’ version of reggae.

Now with the current political scenario, the Soul Raiders have come up with this track ‘Song for my Nation’ which, well, speaks more of what people are into with not knowing where the country goes next. Here is part of the lyrics:

My nation is in frustration,/ Lacking direction;/ Does the government has a solution?/ I doubt./This song is for my nation/ In desperation,/Life is in devaluation

Please God, give us direction/ we’ve lost our vision/Can't see the way/And who's gotta bring peace to my nation?/ Seems there's no way out/ From this situation.

Of course the situation is not as hopeless as the track depicts. First impression would be that it is a very good reggae track.

On second thought though is that it lacks the urgency that Matafale used when he did ‘Time Mark’.

This important message coming at the ‘correct’ time should have been packaged in an extraordinary envelope.

My point is, you would miss the gist of the track’s theme if you would listen to it casually as just one of the Soul Raiders’ tracks.

This point is even strengthened by how one of the band members Joel Suzi has posted it on Facebook when I first saw it.

In fact what compelled me to listen to the track were they lyrics that have been posted alongside a link to the reverberation website where the track has been uploaded.

A unique track like ‘Song for my Nation’ needed a far better innovation in terms of choice of the reggae beat to go with it. However, that said, it does not take away the spirit shown by the reaction from our artists from these situation. It’s wrong to always think of singing praise songs – for a price of course – when politicians are campaigning for positions.

Of course the argument would be, so what changes can it bring to the political situation, but the fact is the ability from our artists to be charged artistically and come up with tracks like ‘Song for my Nation’.

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