2019 and its losses

She trod in unexpected places. She did jembe and konga drums. She did drums and she did visekese, that scratching percussion. And, she danced, sang.

Once, on stage at the French Cultural Centre, she danced. Her sister, Ethel Kamwendo Banda shouted in awe as she displayed her art and skill: “Sister! Sister!”

Kamwendo was a talented percussionist

She was Beatrice Kamwendo. 2019 robbed us of her art and skill.

One of her performances, before she died in the just-ended year, was at the Motel Paradise. She was on stage. Moving from the drums, get it right—that is a male-dominated arena—to dance. And she danced, alongside the Jenna Sisters, a cream of dancers brought together by Ben Michael.

The dress was apt. In dotted traditional chitenje with colourful green and yellow, they danced to the beat. And then they changed into Beni attire, women. Beatrice was the lead and she danced.

But February 2019 robbed us of her art and skill. Beatrice went to rest in Makheta. Mind you, Makheta is the very genesis of her art and skill. This is where Ethel and Beatrice were groomed in the family band: Kamwendo Brothers Band. That is before they moved on to Mitondo Band.

Remember Mwatenga Mbiri Muliyenda and Malaya Athina? That was the beginning of good things to come, as Beatrice did the backing vocals for those and many more songs.

On February 26 last year, the dark cloud descended and Beatrice was gone. Ethel recalls it was a hard time to lose her sister. Beatrice was fourth born and Ethel followed in the set of six siblings.

“She was a massive percussionist. She was roped into Kamwendo Brothers Band earlier than me. On her loss, God gave me the greatest of strengths. I mourned Beatrice, knowing God was with us,” said Ethel.

Straight from a New Year crossover prayers at the Blantyre Sports Club (BSC), Ethel reckoned on Wednesday 2020 is a promising year. That, she says, is because 2019 was a hard year for she not only lost her sister, but also her producer Joseph Tembo.

She said: “It was hard. Joseph was my producer and to learn of his death was just hard. But then, I take solace that 2020 is promising and God will fight our battles as he did with the Israelites in Exodus.”

Talk of Tembo. His demise on December 18 shook the nation. When news of his death went viral on social media, many musicians came out to express their shock. So did Malawians.

From Lucius Banda, straight from a South African sojourn to Skeffa Chimoto, Thoko Katimba, Wendy Harawa and many more expressed their sorrow.

Tembo was no ordinary artist. He was, simply, an agile producer we remember for bringing us music. Memories stick how he and Andrew Matrauza rocked the show with Musatidabwe. We remember how Tembo produced Billy Kaunda’s skyrocketing Mwapindulanji album.

From the days he used to play keyboards for Lucius Banda’s Zembani Band to his Groovie Magic studio works for Grace Chinga, Bernadetta Mlaka Maliro, Fuggie Kasipa and many other artists, Tembo proved making music is not for every Jack and Jill.

The musician-cum-politician stood out for his music. He was about culture. His music resonates as it represents the Lower Shire utse and ulimba vibe. The message is deep.

In Ndalira, Dimingu and Samalira, the artiste presented a unique style. Inviolable. At the core, he brought out how our culture is being lost.

The Tembo story cannot be told when he did Mbudye, a song whose rhythm he borrowed from some obscure Botswana musicians. But then, the lyrics he incorporated in the song were downright about the Malawian ethos.

Malawi lost, last month, Owen Hulera the Black Missionaries’ lead guitarist. He had been off the stage for nine months or so.

When the Chokani brothers, drummer Paul and lead guitarist Takudziwani quit Black Missionaries, Hulera took over the mantle on the lead guitar. The gap was bridged.

Anjiru Fumulani, at pains, said on Tuesday it was a blow for the group to lose Hulera.

“He was just talented, and it is sad he is gone. Before performing for the band live, he was one of our session artists. We will remember him for such songs as Dalo,” Anjiru said.

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