Jacks of foreign dances

Good people, Malawi is dancing to the beats of the rest of the world without an ounce to offer.

This is the first thing that strikes a pensive onlooker when it comes to dance events, even competitions.

For many years, we have been hearing about some search for what we overrate as the Malawian beat.

There is none so far, not in the works of dancers and artists who need it most.

Those who need it to sell their creative wares to the global market often talk about the so-called Malawian beat in colourful general terms and nothing specific really.

The result is that the Malawian child grows up dancing to vibes and steps fashioned elsewhere except on home soil.

What about mganda, vimbuza, malipenga, sikili, tchopa, manganje, beni, gule wamkulu and all those traditional dances that we have upheld for many decades?

This is not a new question. It always pops up when minds starved of the national dance identity meet to discuss their lacks.

What is equally trite is that creative minds who need the dance of Malawi have failing to pick viable dances from the shortlist and nurture them into the next big Malawi can sell on the international market.

Once upon a time (and it gets this nostalgic), Fikisa blasted our eardrums with the hit Akamwire  and tantalised our eyeballs with their exquisite, energetic and crisply choreographed sikiri dance steps which left many critics something Malawian was growing in stature and appeal.

However, the hopes of exporting Fikisa and their sikiri were dashed in no time when the drum-happy group bolted from their managers at Nyimbo Music Company and the cousins on the the frontline accused each other of witchcraft.

We are a country steeped in superstition and stories abound of mobs that kill grannies or torch their homes in the name of getting rid of witches and wizards.

What this country did not know is that the myths of witchcraft would kill the most promising dance group on the path to sell their modernised traditional beats and dance moves to the world starved of the Malawian thing.

Take to the streets in your nearest town, the dearth of Malawian dance moves is glaring and shocking, nothing funny.

Here we meet children dancing steps borrowed from all parts of the globe and nothing that is uniquely from here.

The youth have lost culture, those yawning for the ‘good ole days’ say.

But no one can blame the younger brood  for not having what the older generation never willed to them  nor for not doing what they were never taught.

Since Darwin’s dinosaurs vanished from the face of mother earth, the Malawian man and woman have failed to figure out the dance that is to Malawi what rhumba and kwasakwasa is to Democratic Republic of Congo, samba to Brazil, azonto to Ghana and Nigeria and kwaito to South Africa.

In this way, the Malawian has become a pretender  and imitator trying too hard to know a bit of everything but mastering nothing worth the effort.

Only the clueless will buy fakes and alloys with the real McCoy on display.

Creative minds need an hour of silence in honour of their lost years of imitating uncountable dance-savvy nations instead of perfecting the Malawian product.

They need a minute of silence in ridicule of the entrenched false belief that they can dance reggae dancehall better than Damien in Kingston, kwasa kwasa better than the Lubamba in Kinshasa and Ndoh in Yaounde, kwaito more astutely than Dhlamini in Soweto or  Gugulethu, Azonto more colourful than Appiah in Accra or Okechukwu in Lagos and samba more aptly than Daniella and Geraldinho on the beaches of São Paulo.

But this is what we are doing everywhere Malawians dance–clubs, parties, weddings and live shows.

Oh mighty jacks of borrowed dance moves, let’s get back to work and make our beats trendy, danceable and marketable.n

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