Have you ever heard of Neil and the New Vibration? Maybe yes, most likely not. But, you needed to have heard of them.
For the record, this post is about music. Malawian music. In this case, Malawian music is really a loose term stretching from songs done in Malawi, by Malawians or people who have some sort of affinity – no matter how loose – to Malawi. It is, in a way, as I wish. And, I do not say that to sound dictatorial.
There is a song, Chemwali, by Neil and the New Vibration. It is from the album, Made in Malawi.
The places that I patronise, the people that I talk music with, have neither played nor told me about the song. They have not told me about Neil nor the New Vibration. I chanced on their music not long ago. I just went on the internet to look up Malawian music. There, they came. I played Chemwali, I was awestruck.
You should listen to the song. You should pay a particular attention to the Malawian-sounding guitar in the song. There is a sadness in the guitar. It is beautiful yet in a way, that sad guitar.
The voice, when Neil sings, is careful. It carries delicate emotions. I could have said a lot but you can find the song here.
Erik Paliani is good with the guitar. Very good. I am excited that lately I have seen a number of Malawians paying attention to him. And, his music. I think, we all should. We must.
However, I do not know how many have listened to his songs. Or, do know that he has an album to boot.
Well, if you do not. I will tell you just about a song in the album. Kumalewule. It is a song you must be listening to.
Kumalewule does not just boast of a guitar that can be heard and felt. It boasts of a patient voice riding on the guitar. Atop, for those who understand Chichewa, it has some of the most beautiful lyrics.
In Kumalewule, Erik does not only sing about love. He sings about love in a unique style: with a careless assumption that gives too much credit to the listener – in a way only a genius can.
As he sings tikachezadi bwino, mu bottle store ya a Kameza (we will have a decent chat/in the Kameza’s bottle store), Paliani takes a risky move to bring an unknown place to the known. It is as if the audience, who most likely do not know such a place, are long time lovers of his.
And, he paints with words. The opening lines of the song do not just describe, they are a brush with which Paliani paints an ideal world for most lovers. Listen to the song here.
Peter Mawanga is well-known. But his project with Andrew Finn Magill is hardly known in Malawi. The few people I have talked with have expressed surprise and ignorance at the album: Mau a Malawi: Stories of HIV and AIDS.
There is a song, Emily and Graphiuld, which I think is the best in the album. It is the best, to me. And, I think, if you have not listened to it, you must.
Whereas the story, the hope it carries, is a positive in this generation and context – the presentation is the reason why I think it is a must listen.
There is a kind of familiarity in the rhythm. Something most people can easily identify with. The drum, rising and falling in all the right places, is my favourite. Together with the guitar that plays on its own, the one that introduces the song before it keeps playing through in that fashion -unabated – and then concludes with falling in a harmony with the other instruments.
I do not know how long did Mawanga and team practise before they were satisfied with the perfect harmony of instruments that carries that story of Emily and Graphiuld. I think it must have been for long.
Just as I am insisting that you should listen to the song for the rhythm and the beauty that it carries, you should also listen to it for the message.
There is a powerful imagery that is invoked in using the words: sikangandilume/kachilombo kachita manyazi/iwetu mkazi wachikondi/unandiululila chinsinsi chako (it can’t bite me/the virus will be ashamed/you are such a loving woman/you told me your secret).
You can listen to the song here.
Sometimes, I try so hard to understand why I like Nkomba’s Mbvundula madzi. There is a kind of chaotic yet orderly drumming in the song which I like. There is a guitar that appears to be on its own, somehow, in the song and that is a beauty. Then there is a way through which Nkomba sings that I like.
The message is powerful but my liking is not really for the message, I think. It is the heavy drumming. The guitar. The vocals.
It is sad that not many have listened to Nkomba, at least among my friends. Actually, I did not even know him until my friend, Hastings Ndebvu, introduced him to me. I hardly remember the song he directed me to but when I listened to him, I went digging for more from him. I found three, if not four, songs from him. But, it is Mbvundula madzi that I feel more strongly about to recommend.
On another day, I think, I could have recommended Mama, but today I have the pleasure of directing you here.
There might be a number of songs you should be listening to or you should have listened to. But, for now, try those four. Do those four.