Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

When Blacks invaded North Again


After two years, the reggae outfit The Black Missionaries toured the Northern Region again. Did the people in the region miss them? Were they up to the mark?
The first show on the Mzuzu tour on the night of November 4, 2011 at Key Lounge which preceded the Mzuzu Hotel Boma Park show on November 5 afternoon proved the same fact that the band still holds sway.
The record turn-out in the two events talked volume of what respected the band is in the region even in the face of being glossed over by the band which never gave a plausible reason for a 2 year gap that the region had to endure with.
The northern region in general and Mzuzu in particular is still considered as the backwater. Even the region’s own Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire chose to launch his ‘Liberty’ elsewhere and never repeated the act anywhere near the centre where he is now doing his missionary work.
Let me not digress, but talk the Blacks Tour in the north; the band showed that it is still as tight as ever in terms of performance.
This is one of the only few bands that seem to take the audience down the road they are very familiar with. It manages to light the dancing floor with fire and douse it whenever necessary, more so when people are on the verge of collapse with over excitement. The band also rekindles the fire when only ambers are visible.
Meaning, they have realised they have the power of drugs to an addict. They know when to give a fix and how well to punish the addict.
Apparently, they seem to be so serious with what they intend to dish out so much so that they tell you that they were training before bringing the music on. Chumbu, Moda Fumulani, Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa and the band seem to be talking one and the same language.
Of course at Key Lounge, a big letdown was the size of the venue and even the down pour which found its way right on the dance floor even when it hitherto boast of a roof above.
The art of chaining a number of sings without faltering and denying the audience of quality was also evident on the tour, which but exposed the band’s rigidity to play only what they practice making you want to attend a single show and decide not to attend any subsequent one because you know their act.
Why live shows are called live, is because they somehow tend to be experimental moments for the band. It is risky of course but worth trying because this is what has pushed bands to the stardom. The reason lead vocalist says “take it down,” only when it has started is because it is live.
Anthony Makondetsa tries it with ‘Mbumba ya Abraham’ but it looks over rehearsed and steals the thunder it is supposed to effect on the audience.
The Key Lounge tour also revealed to the region that Chizondi the master keyboardist for the Blacks has come of age. This was apparent when everyone was surprised when Anjiru moved back on the backing queue when his young sibling took charge berried out “Pamene tiyenda mu Mthunzi wa imfa; sindizaopa zowopyazo, Yesu zandigwira zanja”…
Yes, with this track which I always say was Msamude’s parting shot and how Chizondi handles it reminds me of Gramps Morgan and how he juxtaposed his leading vocal charge with that of the front man Peter ‘Peta’ Morgan.
I would not want to talk about the audience response at Key Lounge because of the influence that alcohol had over the audience. Anything was danceable although on a few occasions; legs would be seen hanging in the air because the sound could just cut off or because one drunkard had decided to jump on a speaker as a sign of excitement, which the speaker would not take kindly as it crashed down with such a crazy imbiber.
Talk of the Mzuzu Hotel Boma Park show; very few would be seen dancing at times, while many more would be seen appreciating the musicality oozing out of the band as it played, reminding me of how the Dutch audience is taken spell bound my performances in a musical hall in Amsterdam of Salif Keitha for example, when they miss out on what the lyrics are saying but not what the music is communicating.
Like I argued when the band released Kuimba 8, I still would reiterate my position on the band’s output.
The show was still apparent that the Black Missionaries still continue a journey started by founder Evison Matafale which was taken over by Msamude when Matafale fell and taken over now by Anjiru when his elderly brother equally fell as well.
I should believe very soon we will have Kuimba 9 and this is the time the current Blacks should attempt to stir very far away from their traditional songs.

Last time I said when you are listening to the tracks from a distance where you are missing out on what the lyrics are saying, you are bound to think this is one of the many old tracks from the blacks.
And yet these are the new songs that are same old, same old.

One thing that is very clear is the clinging to the template that Matafale and later, Msamude created.

Anjiru and kid brother Chizondi, Peter Amidu and brothers Takudziwani and Paul Chokani need to rethink their future with the forthcoming Kuimba albums.
This is the time to dismantle the Matafale/Msamude template and come up with their creativity.
Today I still ask the same question as to why people flock to Black Missionaries performances.
 Is it more to do with their pedigree that separates them from the competitors full of mediocrity, than it has to do with whether they are progressive musically or not?
With the Mzuzu tour they proved otherwise and I hope Kuimba 9 will say the same.
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