The Northern Region does not have crowd-pullers of artists as is the case with the other regions. But when it comes to music trophies, they usually stand-out. 2013 was yet another year when the North retained the Chibuku Road to Fame Music Competition for the third time.
The competition was stiff. The likes of Dikamawoko, Sally Nyundo’s Run Thingz Band and Pamlonga Band were tipped to be the favourites out of the 11 bands that competed at Mzuzu Stadium in the finals of the competition.
But after every band had showcased its talent on stage, it was loud and clear that the North was at it again. Mzuzu-based Pamlonga Band emerged winners, displacing their competitors Run Thingz and Mal Afri to second and third positions respectively.
But this did not please other quarters. Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) Southern Chapter chairperson Patrick Simakweli protested the results, saying bands from the South did well and deserved to win.
“The judges were all from the North and I think this competition should be running in the North. I have been a judge for several years and the results were questionable,” he said.
His remarks were made despite the fact that MAM’s four chapters contributed a single judge with Cerby Jere (Northern Region), George Khomba (Central Region), Gladson Gomonda (Southern Region), Michael Nyangama (Eastern Region) and George Mkandawire as the chief judge.
Although his remarks were dismissed by MAM president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, this however, was a recipe for serious soul searching on why the North has dominated the competition.
Among other reasons, music experts observed that the competition demands original and cultural music which the North is rich in.
“Most of the music in the North is cultural. Artists sing this kind of music whether there is a competition or not. That’s why they have an upper hand in cultural music competitions,” said Tiwonge Hango, a music tutor.
However, such bands are little known in the country as much as our so-called ‘famous groups’ but they are recognised and respected more in many European countries.
The 2007 Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival champions Body, Mind and Soul, for instance, is not a catchphrase in the country. But, at the 2010 Music Crossroads Inter-regional Festival, where they performed as a guest band, everyone that attended the function, from organisers to participating musicians put on clothes that included T-shirts and Golf shirts that had the face of Body, Mind and Soul’s band leader, Davie Luhanga.
Even the badges, the Ids, the flyers, banners and the special festival magazines had the face of this distinguished Malawian.
Another Mzuzu-based band, 2002 Music Crossroads champions Tikhu Vibrations need no introduction. They outclassed other bands representing Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia to tour European countries.
Other bands such as Kula Band and Cool Giants have also represented Malawi at the finals of Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festivals, not even to mention Wambali Mkandawire’s exploits.
One common factor by these bands, as cited by Hango, is that they play Afro-music. These are songs with traditional elements such as vimbuza, malipenga, mganda,chilimika andmbotoska, sometimes fused with jazz, rock, reggae and blues to create a unique sound.
These are the footsteps Karonga’s Lusubilo, Mzuzu-based Kula and Pamlonga bands, previous winners of Chibuku Road to Fame, have followed.
Pamlonga Band have already travelled to Zimbabwe as part of their prize for emerging winners of the competition.
And, for Lusubilo, an international tour to South Korea is beckoning end of 2014.