- Category: Story
- Written by James Chavula
Lucius Banda is on a mission—gunning for the lost glory as soldier of the poor. At least, that is what he announced during his departure from partisan politics three years ago.
According to released excerpts of his 17th album, Time, it is not immediately evident what he is fighting for as a voice of the voiceless. With 10 of 17 songs telling man-meets-woman tales, it seems to be what he fears it is—a love temptation.
Going by tradition, the Soldier’s fiercest battles are fought in dubs, chants and rants that have made his cover tracks from Ceasefire in 1995 to Life in 2011.
Unveiled on Friday at Mkango Lodge in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, and to be relaunched at Lilongwe Golf Club Sunday afternoon, the newest title track is more of the same.
Not that Time confronts arrogant leaders as Life calls fallen president Bingu wa Mutharika’s dictatorship by its name. It asks Malawians to start interrogating themselves why the country remains in abject poverty nearly 50 years after independence.
“Founding president Kamuzu Banda used to say he found people of Neno and Mwanza literally naked, but now the country is extra-naked because we are living on food handouts from our political leaders. Time is about what we must do to save our children and their children from singing the song of poverty we inherited from our forefathers,” says Lucius.
This could be misconstrued as a war of words against President Joyce Banda whose maize-distributing trips are presently criticised.
But Soldier, who rejoined opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), knows he is no stranger to being misunderstood.
“I have always been misunderstood. Fortunately, those who misunderstand me are outnumbered by those who understand me,” he says.
In the past two weeks, he has conquered the airwaves with the single, Paulendo, seemingly retelling his political tumble and subsequent rise on the back of an anti-government vibe he calls citizen activism. Like Jamaican reggae pioneer Peter Tosh’s Pick Myself Up, the song talks about rising from failure.
“Failure to pick yourself up is accepting failure,” he says, with his song imploring people to “wake up and cross the Jordan” because the darkest hour signals sunset.
The 43-year-old left for South Africa on March 13 1993 to record his debut album Son of a Poor Man which personifies the fall of Kamuzu’s one-party rule and dawn of democracy in Malawi.
Today, Lucius still sings for the poor. On Chule, he censures the insults a rich man pours on his daughter’s underprivileged suitor, saying never treat have-nots like frogs because the world is round.
The love mood is all over the tracks; Tseketseke, Ndiwanga, Musaope Mkazi Akatchena, Flora, Nancy Tabwera and Say I Do.
Yet, it is Tseketseke that demystifies his battle to survive which distinguishes him from dinosaurs of Balaka Music—a heavily keyboard-based imitation of reggae, fashioned by his brother Paul Banda at Imbirani Yahweh.
It is this flexibility to adapt popular beats that gave birth to the house hit Mtima Wako (Si Jaccuzi), simulations of Nigeria’s duo P-Square on Kheliwe and collaboration with Moses Makawa on Wadwalika.
This time he features youthful rapper Piksy (real name Evance Zangazanga) on the bilingual pop number about a lonely lover’s longing for a sweetheart whose touch and talk are truly sweet.
The 43-year-old admits that pairing with a young ace gives him bragging rights that “his music moves with time.” In 2009, he featured Piksy on Ndatchona Ku Lilongwe along with his former Atumwi duo mate Nthumwi Nicodemo (Nicholas Mbonela).
The album also contains a tribute to his long-time manager, the late Alexander Mkandawire, who helped him soldier on where his students were swallowed by inertia. Likewise, Missing You Lucky comes in memory of South Africa’s fallen reggae icon Lucky Dube who was murdered in 2007. It comes four years after Gramps of the Jamaican group Morgan Heritage eulogised the Rastas Never Die hitmaker with the single RIP Lucky Dube in 2009.
Lucius says he is yet to come to terms with the shocking death of the icon whose songs reflects violence and crime in this “crazy world.” On the tribute, the Life hitmaker admits following and imitating Dube since his childhood.
Bringing a new breeze of reggae amid monotonous imitations of Evison Matafale’s legacy, he features Thuthulani Sele, the vocalist, keyboardist and dancer of Dube’s band—the Slaves.
“I have been looking for versatile Sele since I was 19. He was part of cast when the fallen star performed in Blantyre in 1989 and I thank producer Ralph Ching’amba for facilitating our meeting,” said Lucius.
The songs were recorded at Ching’amba’s Ralph Records in Blantyre and mixed at Downtown Studios in Johannesburg.