Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Is FIKISA Malawi's Genre Breakthrough?

The question above has always been bubbling in my mind ever since I caught within my earshot some strange but familiar sound. The familiarity, now I realize, was coming from the leading drum beat I was hearing from that sound.

The sound in question, I have now realized also is a song called ‘Ademwiche’ which is commonly but wrongly (or rightly?) known to the public as ‘Akamwile’.  

You see, our quest for a fixed and well established Malawian genre, has been tedious at times; the other day Lucius Banda told us that we were there with his ‘Zulu Woman’ beat.

Edgar and Davis thought a beat like ‘Kale-Kale’ was it; so were the sounds that emerged from the Lhomwe belt of the likes of Alan Namoko and Chimvu River Jazz Band and Michael Mukhito Phiri. But it is the people that thought this was it, because as you can see, even Namoko had no idea what he was churning out, and this is the reason he thought his backing band was a Jazz set piece.

Robert Fumulani, likewise, had no distinct genre for Malawi and in one of his tracks he did what he thought was a fusion of reggae and Khunju traditional dance and called it Khunju Reggae.

Peter Mawanga and a certain sector of the industry believe he has cracked the elusive code to establish the much sort after Malawian genre with his type of music; but the response has only fascinated the ear of those that can read music.

Ever heard of Honjo? It is a sound that emerged from the folds of Ndirande and this was Sunny B proclaiming the discovery of Malawian beat with what he was panning out.

Up in the north, Body Mind and Soul has what it calls ‘Voodjaz’.

Body, Mind & Soul started like a reggae band, but band leader ‘Street Rat’ claim that after reflecting on the importance of sharing Malawi ancient culture in modern time and after much thought and experimentation they created a new music concept they call ‘Voodjaz’, a subtle mix of traditional rhythms with a jazzy feel.

What is traditional beat? Is another question that has dodged our intelligence more so when others have argued that the moment the musical instrumentation is electrical then forget about the traditional beat, let alone a Malawian genre.

I have argued against such school of thought, more so when they [that have such strange way of describing our traditional music] jump up every time they hear Kwasa-kwasa. They announce in the process that this is Congolese music. Likewise whenever they hear sound from Mafikizola, they tend to conclude that they are hearing South African music.

South Africa and DR Congo are African countries but even with electrical instruments, they have established a local genre.  

Daniel Kachamba and his brother Macdonald are said to have been playing ‘Kwera’ music which musical historians claim was born right here in Malawi during the Ndiche Mwalare/Alick Nkhata days. They claim when Malawians were descending down South Africa in the 1940/50s they took with them the ‘Kwera’ music which the South Africans took as their own and perfected it and became a springboard that has helped them established different genres that are still recognizable as South African.

Now when you hear Ademwiche you do not even want to be told that what you are listening to is a Malawian beat even with the presence of modern instrumentation. This is clear that this is a traditional beat.

But, what is the traditional beat if I may ask? Is it the leading drums that we hear in the Fikisa songs? But if it is, then the question would be, ‘How have they finally cracked the elusive code that has kept us at bay from establishing our own Malawian genre?

I hear Fikisa has some links with Tygrin who fuses Nyau traditional dance beat with Hip-hop to come up with what we have all noted to be Tygrin beat.

Now let’s us look at the most famous beat at the moment Ademwiche. Is this what Nyimbo Studios is set to give Malawians?

The track from the group FIKISA is from their debut album also called "Fikisa". Ademwiche has taken over the kingship on all the dance floors in Malawi including on our airwaves.

Ademwiche as is the case with the other tracks in the album is a direct cross of ethnic Yao music with urban musical elements and this creation is what is known as Ethno-Urban music.

I have heard Ben Mankhamba claiming to have released a Vimbuza song, but it has not retained the Vimbuza element, much the same would be said about the Ingoma songs that Lucius Banda has ever released.

What is enthralling about Ademwiche is that it has its rhythm built on the iron clad foundation of the M’mbwiza beat which is why it is an attraction to the ear even when the Yao lyrics are sounding Greek.

The beauty about the beat can also be seen in its video which has been modernized making it more appealing and balancing up the ethno-urban cross pollination.

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