Lucius owes it all to his wife

He’s gone from a hero to a zero and back, but Lucius Banda is no fool when it comes to giving credit where it is due. Despite being Malawi’s top selling musician, a multi-award winner and a hard-hitting political lyrist, he has a soft spot – his wife. She is his beacon and a springboard of his brainwaves when the chips are down as Peter Makossah found out.

 

Arguably, he is one of the hottest stars in Malawi. He has a staggering record of 16 albums under his belt. He was renowned for raising awareness against oppression and political injustices during Malawi’s one party era — singing his heart out to the wretched souls. He will also go down the memory lane as the one who first pushed for impeachment procedures for the president and vice president in Parliament.

Apart from sell-out concerts in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, England, Scotland and Germany, the heavily-built music icon has also promoted and helped many singers in Malawi.

Lucius, who produces an album almost every year, admits he rarely has free time because he is always up and down working on his music.

Yet there’s one thing the Balaka-based songster never fails to do. Every day, wherever he is in his busy world of music tours, he spends at least an hour talking to his wife of 16 years Sunganani. And every week, he says, he sends her a bunch of flowers tagged with a message ‘Because of you’.

With his departure from mainstream politics, his eminence has shot to an all-time high in his 20-year music career.

Recently, Lucius, who is popularly known as ‘Soldier’ because of his militant approach to his music game, has gone from a fallen politician to an artist music lovers cannot get enough of. His dry wit and no nonsense lyrical outbursts have turned him into one of the country’s most watched and listened to musician. Even those who loathe him listen to his compositions. He has become an international icon, too. Last year, the German government was so charmed by his music that they invited him to Berlin to perform exclusively for the German people.

But ask the 42-year-old celebrity the secret of his success and his quick answer is: “My wife, Sunganani!”

Last year, he threw a huge bash at his Zembani Lodge at Balaka to mark their wedding anniversary which coincidentally was his first born son’s 15th birthday. He reveals that he broke down in tears because he realised that his wife is his pillar of strength and inspiration and that he has achieved what he has because of her support.

“Everything I have is thanks to my wife Sunganani. She is the greatest woman in the world. She’s the beacon of my success,” he says.

It was the trained banker, Sunganani Kamkwalala — then working for Balaka Commercial Bank (now Standard Bank) — who the youthful Lucius first met as a 20-year-old wannabe musician. She watched him turn into a paranoid slob, weighing almost 75kg then plying his trade in Alleluya Band as a keyboardist through his disastrous ambition for a solo career.

For most people, Lucius was a shadow of his talented brother and many thought he could not make any strides on his own.

It was Sunganani who continued to encourage the young timid Lucius, that he had the potential to make it big as an own man.

“I used to write songs, but I didn’t have the confidence and the urge to go and sing them myself. Instead, I would give them to Paul who would sing them, but Sunganani kept telling me I could do it and that I would make it big in the music industry on my own if I started believing in myself. She believed so much in me,” states Lucius.

True to Sunganani’s advice, Lucius became an instant hit with his first solo album, Son of a Poor Man which included the hard-hitting Mabala.

Sunganani does not like to be in the limelight. “My wife doesn’t like to be in the public domain. She has never given any interview to the media. She is so reserved, but very intelligent and wise. She is everything that has made me a successful musician. She is a friend who is always there for me when there’s no one else,” says the Balaka music icon.

Sunganani advised Lucius not to abandon his music career when he was elected to Parliament; telling him that his voice was more important in music than in the political echelons.

It was Sunganani who continued to work behind the scenes to support Lucius after his world crumbled following his arrest and subsequent imprisonment when as Balaka North parliamentarian he was dishevelled into a fake certificate cobweb.

While Lucius was doing his time at Zomba Maximum Prison, Sunganani made sure Zembani Band, which was named after their first born son, continued to operate.

She also stood by him as most of his showbiz friends abandoned him. Many started to distance themselves from him, including those he helped on their way up. Some, including close friends, started to bad-mouth him, but Sunganani kept banking her faith on him.

The soft-spoken banker turned marketer, mother to Johnny-Zembani, 16, Laura, 14 and Mapiri 6, is hugely popular with the Zembani troops and Lucius rarely makes plans without first running them past her.

But how does she cope with the celebrity razzmatazz that surrounds her husband?

In a separate media interview, Sunganani exclusively reveals that she does not look at Lucius as a superstar, but a mere husband and father.

“For me, Lucius is just my husband and a father of my children. I married him when he was not famous; so I don’t see any change,” she says.

Despite having qualifications in banking and marketing, Sunganani is in self-employment. She manages family businesses which  include Zembani Lodge, Zembani Music Company, Summit Night Club and a fleet of trucks and cars operating under Zembani Transport Company.

What Lucius’ fans don’t know is that he sings any new song he composes to Sunganani first before recording it for the public and that she is his first critic.

But Sunganani emphasises that she does not entertain gossip or listen to what people say about her husband because she has businesses to manage.

“I keep my ears closed, but always keep my eyes wide-open. People are full of vices and entertaining gossip is a waste of time,” says Sunganani.

After a downturn, now fame is back– bigger and even better, and even more astounding than the time he released Mabala 17 years ago.

One of Lucius’ colleagues and one-time manager, Alexander Azanda Mkandawire, who has worked with him for half a decade, said in another interview: “Soldier can be tough in his music game, but when the name Sunganani comes up, he softens up. He’s absolutely in love with her.”

Adds saxophonist Dan Sibale, who is also close to Lucius:  “Sunganani is the only person who tells Lucius what to do and he listens. She believes in fixing things for her husband and never leaves them broken. She doesn’t walk away when the chips are down. Rather, she pulls him through and never stops telling him she loves and believes in him.”

Zembani Band leader Sam Simakweli says Sunganani is a great woman and a driving force behind Lucius’s greatness in music.

“She is so humble, considerate, polite and respectful. She is like a mother to all band members and she is loved by everybody,” he says.

Lucius gets emotional, but lights up when talking about Sunganani.

“My wife is very important to me, my unsung hero. She’s my rock!” he says.

There’s a woman behind every successful man, they say and thanks to Sunganani, Lucius is a successful musician.

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