He has talent. When he performs Busy Signal’s Missing You, the Jamaican reggae artist voice comes alive.
As he turns to Bob Marley’s One Love, you feel the Jamaican reggae king’s voice living again. Before you realize it, he turns to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long and the mellow voice breathes again.
Surprised? Don’t be. That is just the very musical life of John Kutsokwe Junior, the artist known in Malawi music corridors as Jay Jay.
Give him a song, and time, he will catch the pitch and deliver it with ultimate precision where the vocals are concerned.
Those that have seen him perform live during music shows or corporate events will testify that if you take off his album-less career, Jay Jay has been a musical force to reckon with.
Today, Jay Jay is growing wings, as he looks forward to releasing his own album, expected next month.
“Time has come for me to release an album, after so many years playing instruments and leading songs, especially those done by other artists. The month to watch is November,” says the artist, whose normal voice is husky.
Work is in progress at Step up Records in Chirimba, Blantyre in the hands of producer Don Foxxy. Some songs, like Dream, in which he features the producer and Lonjezo Langa, a collabo with his long-time music partner, Eunice Kadzuwa-Mhango are playing on some radio stations.
Another song, which Weekend Nation has sampled, Are You the One, is the 12 cut-collection’s spine where the message of love is at the fore, mixing Chichewa and English. It is a song that is not solely for the ear but the dancing feet as well, with its reggae undertones.
Says the Ndirande-raised artist: “The album is all about love. I have been flexible in the genres from reggae to Afro-dancehall. People have always said I sing other peoples’ songs well. They have been asking me when I would release my work, so here I am.”
Jay Jay sparked a fire when he and Eunice Kadzuwa-Mhango frontlined the Mibawa Band between 2012 and 2014.
Friday nights became satisfactory for those seeking fun in the commercial capital as all roads for those seeking live performance led to Mibawa Café.
The artist retraces his journey from the days his father John Kutsokwe was bishop at the United Living Gospel Church. The congregation had just bought a keyboard and there was no one to play the instrument.
“I learned it in no time. I knew from then that I was destined to be a musician,” says the artist, the last born in a family of five. That is before he teamed up with colleagues to form Dark Clouds Band.
Yet, his music ride has seen him as a keyboardist with Imagez Band—which brought us Sally Nyundo—to his days harmonizing the keys for the Young Generations Band of the Afiti Opemphera eminence, to his times at Uhuru Band where he became a feature as a backing vocalist to his days as lead vocalist and band leader for Matumbi Vibrations, the resident band at the popular Lunzu hotspot: Roadhouse.
His music career as a keyboardist has seen him play the keyboard for Nde’feyo Entertainment with its featured artists including Maskal, Piksy, Armstrong (now Onesmus) and the Biriwiri duo.
It is a trek that also took him to Mizati, which was owned by the then Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) president Costen Mapemba before he and others broke away to form Maziko Band before the Mibawa stint. Today, he is on the frontline with Kadzuwa-Mhango at Mizu Band.
“Eunice is a God-given colleague in performance. It was [producer] Uncle Lai who was then working at Marvin Hanke’s studio who linked us up as we were working on Winiko [Bon Kalindo’s] album. He is the one who knew each of us individually and brought us together,” says Jay Jay.
The award-winning Eunice also believes Jay Jay is a God-given partner in music. “We have come a long way. It is difficult to tell what makes us tick. We just thank God,” she says.
While some musicians launch albums before their music careers, Jay Jay’s hay-day of bringing together an album comes a long way after launching his music journey. It is only time that will tell if he will see the light of day.