...Keeping the Fumulanis, Matafales, Makondetsas legacy alight
The brown dust has the tendency to rise from the ground and settle on people’s eyelids whenever The Black Missionaries Band plays on open ground at Mankhokwe Ground in Chileka once a year.
Sometimes, the name of the show changes. Last year, it was the Evison Matafale Memorial Show. This year, it was the Chileka Memorial Show. But the dust does not change its colour, and still clings to people’s faces in the heat of the dancing moment.
“Everything that happens here happens for a purpose. The dust, when it rises, inspires us that, though we have lost grandparents, parents, uncles, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews and relatives who happened to be great musicians, we will forever be inspired by their death and keep their mission in music going,” Moda Fumulani says.
It is Sunday afternoon, and Moda has just had a great music performance as part of the activities marking Chileka Memorial Show.
His sentiments reveal how the dust of Mankhokwe has become a symbol of death and rejuvenation. The dust keeps Singano Village’s dead, including talented musicians such as the late Robert Fumulani, Arnold Fumulani, Musamude Fumulani, Gift Fumulani, Evison Matafale, among others.
However, it is the settled dust that keeps the dead because, according to Moda, the meaning changes when it rises.
“When it (the dust) rises, it becomes an instrument of hope, assuring us that we can still realise the aspirations of all those great people we miss. It is upcoming musicians from Singano (Village) that epitomise this hope,” he says.
Moda says new generations of Chileka musicians have managed to keep the mission afloat through unity. He says Chileka would have lost its status as the jar of music had musicians chosen the easy path of selfishness.
“This (spirit of unity) started a long time ago. During the time of my father, Arnold, who was a master of the bass guitar while with Likhubula Jazz Band, he could play alongside Sailesi Fumulani and others. You never heard reports of quarreling.
“In fact, what The Black Missionaries Band does, by giving all of us the platform to perform, is what used to happen in those days. It has always been part of the Chileka music tradition for elders to incorporate children, and for the children learn from those with experience. That is how we have managed to weather the storm of death and carry on with the music project,” Moda says.
Moda says, in the same spirit of going on with the music tradition, he feels duty-bound to “finish my brother, the late Gift Fumulani’s dream”, citing his (Moda’s) efforts to continue the late brother’s music projects.
He said he has been trying to immortalise Gift’s albums namely; ‘Ndikuyimba, ‘Mphamvu Yake’, and ‘Stephano’.
“When Gift was in hospital, he used to tell those who visited him that he would release a fourth album, ‘Loto la Farao’, once he got out of hospital. So, I have tried my best to ensure that his dream is realised in his absence though things have not always worked according to plan,” Moda says.
However, the challenge with inheriting the work of others is that one runs the risk of being accused of copying. In fact, some people have suggested that Toza Matafale Mona sometimes sounds like his brother, Evison.
What does Mona say?
“That is not true. It is easy to carry the mission forward without sounding like you are copying, and that is what I do. Please set the record straight to people who have been making such allegations that, while I am committed to continuing with the mission of Evison, I have never tried to copy him,” Mona says, adding:
“Actually, if you listen properly, you will realise that I have my own unique voice. May be because we (Evison and I) are brothers, somehow people think our voices sound the same.”
Like Moda, Mona says he is determined to keep Evison’s name alive, saying, as part of that wish, he has already composed a number of songs which will be compiled into an album next year.
While agreeing with Moda that the Matafales and Fumulanis of this world teach their young the basics in music, he says that some children have in-born talent.
“What I mean is that not every child born in Singano Village turns out to be a musician. It is those who have in-born talent that flourish. Music is a call, and, fortunately, most of us in Singano Village happen to be called. And then we are lucky because we have all these musicians who teach upcoming talent the skills,” Mona says.
In fact, as part of passing the skills to new generations, The Black Missionaries Band has a youth band that nurtures Chileka youths who have exhibited traces of ingenuity in music.
Band Leader for The Black Missionaries Band, Anjiru Fumulani, says the idea is to oil the legacy of those long-gone, and hand the mantle over to new generations when the brown dust calls.
“This is one way of investing in the future. The most encouraging thing is that those who are part of The Black Missionaries Youth Band have shown that they have talent, and mesmerise fans when given the opportunity to perform live,” Anjiru says.
One of the youths who has shown potential is Davie Tambwali, 21. He mesmerised music-lovers during the Chileka Memorial Show when he performed ‘Ndalama’, a reggae song that advocates for a return to barter- the exchange of goods with goods.
In the song, the persona bemoans that the greatest loser after the introduction of money is love- and recollects problems whose root can be traced to money.
Another member, 20-year-old Vincent Kanthu, has also composed a number of songs, including ‘Chikondi Chathu’, ‘Watsikira Konko’, ‘Chikondi Chake’, among others.
The two, both of whom hail from Singano Village in Chileka, were identified after they released a single, ‘Udzingosekerera’, in 2006.
“The future is bright. The platform is there for us; we just need to master the instruments we are being taught,” Tambwali says.
That is how the music tradition has become part of a cycle- call it the Chileka Musical Cycle. Once every year, the sleeping dust proclaims rejuvenation when it rises from Mankhokwe ground. And, in its wake, new talent keeps on emerging.