The year 2018 came and is gone. Sadly it has taken with it our brothers and sisters who for many years thrilled us with their artistic genius and from whose wells of wisdom we quenched our thirst.
Death plucked from our midst some of the greatest writers we admired, the musicians we adored and the actors we respected. Some whose dreams and potential were fulfilled while others not. Now they are nested in the world yonder.
As they walked the last miles of their life journeys, the world watched in disbelief and disappointment. The loss and void these departures created were huge. But as they say, death is a debt of nature which every one of us will pay and now we can only look back at the contributions they made during their lifetime.
On January 23, the world woke up to the sad news of the death of Africa’s jazz icon Hugh Masekela. Born on April 4 1939, the artist dazzled with his music not only in southern and central Africa but even beyond.
The legendary jazz artist-cum-political activist lost a long battle to prostate cancer at the age of 78. He began playing his trumpet at the age of 14 and when he mastered the art, he joined Alfred Herbet’s African Jazz Revue.
He went on to record and perform with some of the greatest names in the world of music. His known compositions include the anti-apartheid anthem Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela), Stimela and Grazing in The Sun.
He performed twice here in Malawi. First during his trip in 2007 when he performed at Lilongwe Golf Club on July 8. Then he performed again in Blantyre the following day at Blantyre Sports Club.
Local afro-jazz guitarist Erik Paliani, who worked as producer on Masekela’s 2008 album, Phola, said working with him was the climax of his music career and described his death as a sad moment for the music world.
“I became the jazz artist that I am under his mentorship,” he told this publication.
The past year, Malawi lost probably two of its most accomplished writers. The first to go to rest was politician-cum-writer Sam Mpasu who was found dead in his solitude on February 15 at his house in Mudi in Blantyre.
Minus his contributions in another sphere of life, Mpasu will forever be remembered in the literacy circles for his contributions through three thought-provoking masterpieces that he published: Nobody’s Friend (1975), Political Prisoner 3/75 (1995) and The Hare and Other Folktales (2015.
Though known mostly for his political indulgencies, Mpasu’s writings demonstrated that he breathed writing.
“I have always been a writer. Writing is my hobby. I do not do it for commercial purposes,” Mpasu told this publication in an interview in 2015.
Writer and publisher Alfred Msadala, who is also president of Malawi PEN, described Mpasu as a creative writer whose works helped mentor so many writers in Malawi.
Msadala said : “His writing style was addictive to the reader. He was able to use words to create vivid images in the minds of readers.”
Mpasu was buried at Khuze Village, Traditional Authority Kwataine in Ntcheu District on February 18 last year.
On the local musical front, veteran musician Young Chilaga breathed his last on March 21 after succumbing to high blood pressure. The artist, who came to the limelight in the late 90s with his popular hit Kuongola Mtengo, was until his death serving as treasurer for the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM).
On September 15 the country was left shell-shocked following news of the death of renowned poet and academician Professor David Rubadiri.
In announcing his death, his granddaughter Victoria tweeted: “This literary giant now rests. He breathed his last, but his words continue to inspire so many across this great continent.”
His influence in poetry throughout the African continent mainly mainly came to the fore due to his stint at Makerere Univeristy in Uganda where he interacted and tutored many established poets on the continent.
Registrar of the University of Malawi Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga described Rubadiri as a man with multifaceted talent, a consummate literary prima donna, a man of culture and a scholar of distinction.
The mercurial poet died at the age of 88 and was befittingly laid to rest at Heroes Acre in Mzuzu.
The departures of these artists brought us tears but we shall forever remain grateful to the artistic lessons they left through their contributions during their lifetime. n