Listening to Lawi’s new song, Timalira, from his latest album Sunset in the Sky feels like sitting under the baobab tree—listening to the words of a great existentialist philosopher—an African sage.
Existentialist philosophers mainly look at the question of human despair, anguish and even the reality of death-that’s what causes tears.
The question of what causes human tears looks ordinary because we always see tears almost every day. Lawi picked on what looks to be a simple issue and goes philosophical with it and attempts to define the drop of a human tear. This could be an interesting work of art because it digs into what we regard as common human emotions.
But as it comes out in Lawi’s song, there is something complicated about human tear—for this is where all humanity stands the test of defeating emotions but in the end, none is found strong enough to win the war against tears. The rich, the poor, the learned, unlearned, white or black, men or women, are all deemed unworthy to rise above human tears. Lawi asks thus:
Kodi wanyonga ndiye uti?
Wosakumana ndi mikwingwirima?
Njira yomwe onse amoyo ayesedwa kulimba mtima.
Human tears, on the other hand, are elusive for a complete definition because other beings or sections of the society, perfected the art of withholding tears and letting them fall and bundle within them without letting a single drop fall from their eye for others to see. That is the what we say, mwana wa mwamuna salira.
But Lawi says it is not true that a real man does not shed tears. It is also difficult to separate a genuine from a fake or created tear. After testing all humans of strength to stand against tears, Lawi finds them falling short of the test. Lawi finds that it is common for all humanity to be overcome by anguish and despair for that is what forms humans—tears are inescapable from the essence of humanity. He says that, we only differ in the ways we react towards anguish/despair for others express their emotions loudly and others silently. But the underlying fact is that all humanity succumbs to tears. It’s only that:
Zochititsa mantha ena, zilimbitsa mtima ena.
Tifanana, ndikusiyana, muzotipangitsa kulira.
Timalira mumtima, mong’ung’uza ndi modandaula
Ululu ukasefukira, timaliranso mwa mkuwe.
Now what are tears?
The nature of tears is that you cannot measure them for the amount of tears falling from the eyes is not always equal to the depth of sadness or despair that one feels. The other interesting nature of tears is that, one among the people equally struck by some sad experience, only one will start crying depending on how fast his tear glands react to sad experiences.
Yet, tears do not choose faces- beautiful or ugly faces are both running grounds of tears. And anyone who attempts to hold tears and forces them back into their way, works in vain for he carries the weight of the hidden tears in the eyes and everyone notices the weight of supressed tears. The eyes become a witness in the lies and pretence of escaping the shame of tears. And so:
Kulira kulibe mulingo,
Champweteka ndiye ayamba
Sikuona nkhope kulira mayi,
Maso ndiye mboni.
Tonse timalira, zikawawa, tikakhumudwa, zikalemera, zikachuluka
Mutu ukakula kusalewa nkhonya mayooo.
Timalira muntima, timalira monga ana
Ndi misonzi mayooo, imakhala ikulakatika.
The nature of tears is also in the irony—that some people feels humiliated in shedding tears. Yet these tears are sophisticated in the ways they get to human beings for they come in both visible and invisible forms. The invisible tears are dangerous and can kill because people/sympathisers will just look at you not knowing what is in your mind. They will not come to help you get out of grief and you can die with that.
So Lawi says that we shouldn’t avoid crying in the storm to escape the humiliation that sometimes comes in shedding tears and we shouldn’t be cheated by the thinking that the world loves and rewards people who have the temerity to fight back tears into the eyes. In fighting tears back, you only do some kind of injustice to yourself as that can eat at your soul or kill you. Yes:
Mtima uli nawo misonzi, yosaoneka yongothera mkati
Ndi misonzi yosaputukutika amayoo.
Oooh, oooh ooooh,oooh, tsamba langa, wala mu dzuwa, bwerera mu mphepo
Kukongola kwako kosiliritsa kuli kunja, ulira mkati
Thus, from the lines above, I view Timalira as one among Lawi’s greatest compositions in an album that carries 25 songs cutting across different themes- that define human experiences from childhood to adulthood. This song is a philosophical reflection of the human experiences. The concept of human emotions and feelings reconstructed in the song, raises Lawi from just being a singer to the echelons of be a thinker—an African sage. And a combination of a good singer and a thoughtful songwriter, I guess, makes a complete musician.
Timalira has departed from the traditional narrative of people’s experiences and what tears look like from the eyes. It dissects humanity as being constructed by the pool of tears that stays at the base of the mind. Lawi in the song, has been a genius at finding the commonalities of all humans in expressing pain—the universalisation of human anguish and despair.
And you can understand Lawi’s concepts better in the song by looking at some recent past political events in Malawi, in which one human either shed or held tears-cried in the storm.
Think of former president Joyce Banda, who after losing an election in 2014 held her tears—and later vanished to cry loudly somewhere abroad. Banda, perhaps, held her tears not to let the world know her disappointment of losing an election.
Think of late Judge Maxon Mbendera, who as the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), shed tears when announcing the results of the 2014 presidential elections. Nobody actually knew why the respected judge was defeated by emotions and revealed his full humanity.
Think of Lazarus Chakwera, who pretended that all was well when he came second in the general election after Peter Mutharika. He did not cry loudly. But his attempts at challenging the results through the courts, told us, that here was a man shedding tears silently.
But in shedding tears we really express our full humanity. Indeed, tonse timalira. n