Saturday, 11 February 2012
Mayeso Chirwa, the Saxophonist
I have no weight to judge if the soils of Katope in Bwengu had any right to swallow the remains of Mayeso Chirwa whom we fondly called ‘Bhuti Jeso’.
He might have died from cancer like the giant Reggae King Robert ‘Tuff Gong’ Nesta or like Stonard Lungu, and there could be a sneaking suggestion that this is the reason I am today dedicating this space in his tribute; Mayeso was equally a musical force to reckon with.
Mayeso Chirwa loved to talk, his talking was utmost, stamped with witty jokes that left you in stitches, but of all, I think he loved to read. I am assuming that he did, because how can some mortal be so hugely knowledgeable about anything musical that was playing on this earth?
Simply put; he was a depository of musical information. He displayed such Platonism as if he was a music professor in a different life.
He could write an assessment of a musical band that he was watching playing and come up with a fascinating short analysis in a funny but knowledgeable way by means of what he was calling ‘citizen journalism’.
When Zimbabwean Prince Tendayi died he commented: “This guy gave our music a real kick in the 90s, late Bright [Nkhata] and Ben Michael recorded at his High Density thanks to his friendship with Uncle Jairos Banda. I loved his 'character, character babe yo!'”
On 18 December last year when Jay-Jay Munthali’s pioneered MIBAWA Band was playing in Lilongwe he wrote:
“These Bt [Blantyre] guys are in LL [Lilongwe] performing at Chameleon as I write, very awesome quintet, silky voices, man and woman vocalists, ma harmony ngati aku Congo. Do you guys in Bt know you have this great band? No music of their own yet, they are doing covers from Percy Sledge to Ritchie to Boris Gardner eish kawawa. Equipment super, they are bankrolled by a former Total boss, he just returned from HQ in Paris. The vocal talents remind me of late Salim Khan. I wonder what happened to BT, it used to offer this sort of talent in dozens. Mwanja Sweeny Chinkango and Titha Vibrations, Flashers, Ndiche Bros among the youth bands that shook the city of BT, m'menemo ku Lilongwe anthu mukumvera Chitipi Sounds, ku Mzuzu, Katawa Singers.”
I think because of Mayeso Chirwa, lately the United States Embassy in Malawi was starting to get musical.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day the Embassy presented “Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS”, a musical performance by Fulbright scholar Andrew Finn McGill, Peter Mawanga and the aMaravi Movement on November 30, 2011 at Crossroads Hotel Auditorium.
Mayeso never forgot his citizen journalism as he had to write this about it on the day: “Happening now ... The guys sound tight, catchy African movements, they are exploring overseas deals; it won't surprise me if they get lucky with the big dogs - I wish them a Sony BMG jackpot!”
But minutes later when he wrote on one of the social forums that the show had ended, many commentators protested but he schooled them as he usually did:
“Standard performance duration for professional live bands is 45 minutes. Live band performances are thus sold or bought in 45 minutes sets. If an artist plays for 90 minutes he/she gets $ for two sets. No laziness… oyimbawo anawona choncho. Kodi football match ikhale ndi phungwe ingakome? It has regulation time for realistic viewers’ attention span and players’ mileage and resilience test.”
Yes, Mayeso Chirwa was Information Specialist at the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy of the United States of America, but he humbly mixed with anyone.
This is the reason perhaps one could not separate him from music, what with another musical activity when the embassy on September 26, 2011 hosted a bass guitar workshop. Come on Bhuti, a Bass Guitar Workshop?
The 5-hour-long workshop had such an agile professional bass player in the name of Chris Baio of rock band Vampire Weekend who conducted instruction in an exciting learning environment for players of all abilities who were exposed to various styles and techniques of bass.
While I am trying to depict how Mayeso was a complete music critic as well as an organiser of the same for the industry, he was also an artist himself.
If you have had the opportunity to watch latest Kalimba Band videos, you will see a bespectacled handsome young man playing an alto saxophone; that is Mayeso Chirwa for you.
So, besides being a repository of music information he was a musical instrument player who was never appreciated if what happened in September last year at Lilongwe Shoprite is anything to go by.
His Kohlert pro Saxophone was stolen from a band member's car and to show just how passionate he was about this act, he ordered a new set through Amazon from a Kansas City in the US.
One of his friends, Raphael Tenthani attended his burial and he had this to write: “Bhuti looks like he was about to blow his sax as he peered out to us from the open casket. It threatened to rain over Katope Village at Bwengu, north Mzimba, but it didn't.”
Yes, I again ask you the soils of Katope, do you know what you have swallowed?