Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Is Wailing Brothers already wobbling?

Granted, I might be jumping the gun. But I dare conclude that the reggae band, the Wailing Brothers, is already wobbling just a few months after its revival.

The promise looked full when siblings, drummer and lead guitarist Paul and Takudziwani Chokani respectively, left yet another reggae group Black Missionaries to breathe life into a Wailing Brothers that dripped into comatose immediately after its pioneer the siblings elder brother Elias passed on.

The band, which started long before The Blacks, tried to copy what bands with clout and most considered successful going by round the clock, round the year countrywide shows do. But it looks like Wailing Brothers has run out of steam long before they even started in earnest what their competitors have done for years.

The bands that quickly come to mind are of course The Blacks, Lucius Banda’s Zembani Band, Alleluya Band etc. Zembani has also reduced its live performances ever since boss Lucius Banda went back to parliament.

Without studying the ‘travelogue’ used by these bands it was all clear that not even the single album in the bag would save the situation for Wailing Brothers.
Not that the album is bad and could not carry them through, but perhaps there is a better explanation to explicate their absence.

Listening to Wailing Brothers’ maiden album rightly named – ‘Unfinished Project’ you realise that it doesn’t even waste time to get down to business with the opening track ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ which I describe as a loaded dice. It’s so allegorical, reminiscent of compositions of their first known leader Evison Matafale – not that I am disregarding the fact that the band was started by Elias.

This tracks leaves you with so many questions whose answers are in the chorus – ‘It is as you say’. 

This particular track, like the rest that have been led on vocals by Chikumbutso Simbi, is a revelation of more than one thing; the sibling band leadership of the Chokani brothers has realised their deficiencies in delivering vocal output. I might speculate that this is perhaps the reason they had Matafale in the initial stages.

My observation is not without proof as it has been rightly represented in the tracks that Taku is on vocals which clearly show that God did not provide him with the gift of voice when He bequeathed him with the skilful manner he puts on display when given a lead guitar.

In the track ‘Afritune’ the band has been very naughty with experiment where they play African drums that have been well intertwined with reggae elements coming up with a piece of work oozing refined creativity.  There could never have been any better way to pay their tribute to their fallen brothers and cousins in Elias and Luis, Gift and Musamude Fumulani and of course Matafale, than in the ‘Afritune’.  

The track does not demand stringent vocal levels that separate the novice from the elite. It has therefore suited the voices of its lead vocalists Taku and Paul.

‘Levi’ is a track which like ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ is serious minded reggae track. This is the album’s other best, done by Chiku on the vocals and also inclined towards religious, or is it spiritual foundation. The flair with which the works of ‘Unfinished Project’ has been appropriated is easily noticed in these tracks.

Those who faulted the revival of Wailing Brothers missed it. I still maintain that we really needed a different voice of reggae in the industry.

This is a superlative variety; I would hate to call it an alternative to productions by Black Missionaries because to do so will be playing into the hands of those who are chanting that music is a mission and not competition in reference to the departure from the Blacks by Paul and Taku to reawaken Wailing Brothers.

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, the highly promoted track in the album is a mixture of the complicated and the simple and not so complicated vocal pitch arrangement. 

Of course the mistake has come about with the inclusion of this complicated vocal counter which clearly shows that it does not suit Taku’s natural vocal strength. Even the best instrumentation that goes with this track is failing to conceal this vocal inadequacy. When you have the opportunity to listen to the track especially when being performed live, you will get the perfect opportunity to appreciate my observation.

But the vocals on the ‘I Love My Guitar’ piece have progression that tells us all but one thing; that there is still need of a great deal of improvement. The title of the track is in a way a telling testament that Taku better show his love for the guitar by somehow sticking to it more than his attempt on lead vocals.

Those that are true lovers of music in general, and ardent reggae listeners in particular, will doff their hats off for this particular album.

This is one of the few best reggae albums in Malawi but nevertheless it tells us that Wailing Brothers music mission is an incomplete project that needs to be perpetuated not finished.

But with their disappearance, will they indeed perpetuate the project?

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