A career stagnated by financial constraints

Reggae musician Leonard ‘Lenzoh’ Mshangah enjoyed the spotlight when he released Abale Eni Eni, a track in his third album titled Mbwadza released in 2010. He has performed with Skeffa Chimoto and the Wailing Brothers. Though he enjoys a considerable moment in the limelight, the journey has been tough as revealed in this interview with our Arts Editor EDITH GONDWE.

Mshanga: Very few Malawians know my music

Q

: When did you start your music career?

A

: I was born with this talent. I was born in a Christian family and from a very young age I was singing in church choirs at Damba CCAP Church in Nkhotakota together with my siblings. In our family we are all into music, except that I took it to another level. I started playing guitars when some people from our village returned from Zimbabwe. These people were able to play guitars but they were looking for someone who could lead and compose songs. Other people within the village directed them to me and after our meeting we formed a band called Lenzoh and the J Brothers. The J was derived from their surname which was January but their names were Ronald, Danford and Misheck. These brothers encouraged me on this musical path. I also joined forces with a friend Dryson Mng’omba before I met Skeffa Chimoto in 1997.

Q

: How has been your music journey?

A

: I cannot say I have reached a point where I can pat myself on the back as an accomplished artist. Look, very few Malawians know my music, let alone my name. It’s my prayer that both my name and music should be everywhere. That is the time that I will feel like I have accomplished something. Nevertheless, it is not going to be easy to reach that stage because of lack of resources that can help me to take my career at a top and desired level.

Q

: Tell us about the eight years that you worked with Skeffa Chimoto. What was the agreement and why did you leave to join the Wailing Brothers?

A

: I should start by saying before all this I have met numerous challenges. My biggest desire is to do a lot of live performances to a level where I will be at par with what Bright Nkhata used to do. I have watched many live performances before including those by Bright Nkhata, Accacias Band, Alleluya Band.

The eight years that I played with Skeffa have been the most glorious. I have learnt so much from Skeffa. He relies on God before taking any action, leadership and his stage work. This is the band that helped me to shed off fear when performing live. His band the Real Sounds has taken me to all the corners of Malawi as well as foreign countries like Zambia and Mozambique. Everything that I am capable of doing on stage, I learnt from Real Sounds Band and Skeffa Chimoto. My association with Skeffa dates back from our youth. We come from the same village, we have grown up together, we have been to same schools. We also started our music careers together. We are like brothers. He is the one who asked me to dump my soccer career and persuade one in music when I was living in Blantyre while playing for Michiru Castles FC as a goalkeeper. Skeffa knew what I am because when I joined, members of Real Sounds Band doubted me. But they later appreciated my talent and accepted me.

There are no negative issues whatsoever that led me to part ways with Skeffa. If I can go back today, he will take me back without any problems. I am like a child of the family who has grown up and want to be independent. This is why I sought employment at the Wailing Brothers and this was the beginning of being independent. I had to see progress of my career as well as earn a living in order to take care of my wife and children. The other reason is that my desire was to work with a reggae band like the Black Missionaries and the Wailing Brothers. Bunju, Paul and Taku Chokani did not hesitate to hire me as lead vocalist. It was all merry and I was the dependable member of the band. It was around this time that I met a good Samaritan, who does not want to be mentioned, who encouraged me to have my own band. He said he was ready to help me with resources and this is the time I took the bold step of leaving the Wailing Brothers. The band is called Lenzoh Mshangah and the Finesse Band.

Q

: When you compare the music industry when you were starting and now what would you say are the major differences?

A

: There is a difference in the music trends from the time that I was beginning to the current situation. The distribution and marketing under the management of OG Issah helped artists to make money through record sales. Now artists depend on live performances. On my part, I can confess that there is very little in this aspect that I know because I was in the village, it’s a blessing that now I am able to brush shoulders with those artists I could only hear about on radio like Anthony Makondetsa and Billy Kaunda.

Q

: In the absence of music what keeps you busy?

A

: Besides music I am also into business.

Q

: What should music lovers expect from you going forward?

A

: People should expect a lot of music goodies from me. Music is a mission where God uses us as His messengers. God cannot therefore send us to deliver bad tidings to His people. People should expect good reggae music from me.

Q

: How many albums do you have so far, what are the titles and where are you going from here?

A

: I have four albums to my name. The first one is Nyimbo 1 released in 2004. My second album Nyimbo 2 is a 2008 production. My third album Mbwadza is a 2010 production while my fourth album is Ndi Udindo Wanu.

My future is in the hands of God. However, my vision is to move from where I am to another level. I believe I cannot musically stagnate. I am releasing a new album called Kadontho ka Madzi later this year.

At the moment I am working with The Disciples Band. Things are moving on at the moment. I am the band leader but our band manager is Kumbu Kachimanga. My solo project with The Finesse Band has been temporarily halted because our sponsor is outside the country at the moment.

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