At around dusk on Wednesday last week, news filtered through the social media that Thomas Chibade, one of the country´s talented musicians, has died.
Immediately, the platform became awash with tributes, homages, audio and video clips of the once fresh-faced musician from Zomba who rose to establish his name on the fabric of Malawi´s musical history.
Granted, Chibade´s career has ended not with a bang, but a whimper. In what can could be described as his last days, it was not uncommon to come across pictures or videos of him in what many would describe as a sorry state of his former self. He was clearly struggling with alcoholism.
This is why when his death was confirmed, some quarters accused Malawians of the usual hypocrisy of bringing our artists flowers when then can no longer smell them. But in all honesty, if at all there were any artists who felt the love of Malawians when they were alive, Chibade is one of them. Justifiably so. Chibade was talented beyond measure.
Around the mid 2000s, Chibade burst into the musical scene with arguably one of the best albums of that decade, Zatukusira
In Zatukusira, he demonstrated great musical composition and lyricism that earned him comparison with Joseph Nkasa, who was then by far, the artist of the moment. Many considered him a protégé of Nkasa, whom Chibade never hid his admiration for.
Zatukusira is a no skip album that touched on several themes, from love, politics, social injustices and gratitude. The album had it all.
It was the song, Mau Anga, that won the heart of the fans, obviously due to the simplicity yet powerfulness of the message of the chorus. It was a word play on the popular vowels A,E,I,O,U. The letters everyone, from a Standard One child to a grandperson in the village knows. Chibade weaved the vowels into a love message to his lover in the song. The result; everyone sang along when the chorus played.
A! Awa ndiye mawu anga/
E! Embekeza ndikuuze/
I! Ine ndiye ndakukonda/
O! Osati sewero/
U! Umvetse mawu anga, aah umvetse lero/
Apart from Mau Anga, a feel good song for lovers, there were bigger hits in message and composition that made Malawians accord Chibade the respect that was by then, beyond his age.
In Freedom Fighter, Chibade sang, likely from a personal experience, of the struggle of the common child in trying to get an education because of various social and political barriers, chief of them being poverty.
Chibade never hid his ambition to have continued with school. Despite dropping out, he forced some English lines in his compositions. Broken as they were, they added a unique flavour to his music. The song Our Love is a typical example.
Chibade seemed to have been aware of his musical ingenuity. In Pemphero he laid bare his struggle to have his music recorded until some well-wishers, including producer Ralph Ching’amba and a certain Mr. Chikwatu came to his rescue. He paid homage to them in the song and appealed for them to extend this gesture to other musicians. Such was his selfless act of gratitude.
Across his musical career, Chibade sang everything that needed to be sang,for and to the common man. He condemned domestic violence, preached abstinence and faithfulness amidst the HIV/Aids pandemic and sang wittingly against bad governance.
In his duet with Lucius Banda, Kalata Yachitatu, in which he confessed that he was only a hare pitied against the elephant, he complemented Lucius’ series of letters with a powerful lament of the common man struggling against poverty. The song remains one of the most powerful feature songs of Malawi´s prominent artists.
As the curtains fall on one of the nation´s most talented artists, the country can only unite in his death and intercede for his soul to be well received by God just like he had sang for those that departed before him in Kawalandireni.
Poti akufa sadziwa Mbuye/
Chifukwa ndili kupempha onse ause ndi mtendere
Monga munachitira Paulo
Chimodzimodzi nthawi yathu
Pempho langa ndiloti anthu otisiyawa chonde muwalandire.
The entry is a contribution from Hastings Ndevu, staff associate lecturer in digital journalism at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences.