Memories of Culture’s founding leader Joseph Hill loomed large throughout the band’s show in Blantyre on Friday, but his son Kenyatta had a surprise for his fallen father’s nostalgic fans.
The Jamaican artist, who performed from 12.13am to 2.38am on the chilly night at Mibawa Multipurpose Hall, unleashed his tightly kept secret when he suddenly put the concert on pause to introduce his unsung hero and mother, Pauline.
“Most of you know my father, but behind every child is a mother. Tonight, I have a surprise for you. I want to introduce to you my mother, a lovely woman who made it possible for my father to bear me,” said Kenyatta as the bouncy woman walked to the centre stage, waving at the ecstatic audience aptly dazzled by her smile and energy.
The son of the famous reggae moderniser feted the packed venue, Mibawa Multipurpose Hall, with over two hours of the reggae group’s most memorable hits ranging from Addis Ababa to Zion Train.
Doubts and wows
Kenyatta sounded seemingly unsure of the reception awaiting them in this part of the continent he constantly called home.
To the astonishment of their fans, he started every song by asking: “Malawi, do you remember this one?”
Yes they did, and they responded uproariously.
It was a night of remembering Culture and its fallen leader, but Malawians did not leave him alone as he took them down the memory lane.
They kept him company, singing along on top of their voice, dancing with all their might, smoking freely and no song ended without deadening wows.
So impassioned were the artists and the reggae pilgrims in the studio-like chamber with inbuilt sound equipment that they visibly enjoyed the jam right from the start although the musician could not hide his displeasure with a basic bit of the beat.
“Malawi, we came all the way from Jamaica to give you sweet music, sweet reggae music, but I don’t like the sound interference in this room,” he said, with lengthy pauses that exposes exasperating echoes some dancers did not mind.
Kenyatta is a seasoned sound engineer who took the world by surprise when he grabbed the microphone and jumped the front of the band the night his father dropped dead in a concert in Berlin, Germany, on August 19, 2006.
There was no mention of that tragic night in Berlin.
Instead, he left some wistful fans, who miss his father, with tears of joy-for they only missed the face of his father.
On the night in Blantyre, Kenyatta proved beyond doubt that Culture still lives-and doubters beware: the 38-year-old sounded much older than his age.
There was no minute of sorrow. No time to dose off. Just some serious reggae experience.
The artists arrived at Mibawa wearing a black pullover, but he peeled it off and remained with a white vest as the music got hotter. By the time the temperature in the hall rose higher, he was only remaining with a black vest on.
Kenyatta may not be wrinkled with age like his legendary sire, but he sounds pretty like him really.
Home and happy
Save for bouncers with iron knuckles guarding the stage, Kenyatta was no stranger on stage and in the city where he had been seen freely interacting with clubbers at Blue Elephant and Mustang Sally since his arrival on Wednesday.
“Africa is home,” he said, paying tribute to Peter Tosh’s African: “Like one of the reggae greats from our country sing, no matter where you come from, as long as you are a black man, you are an African. Good people, we are happy to be here.”
The sensational vocalist was backed by Culture’s elderly co-founders-Albert Walker on the backing vocals and Telford Nelson flying a Rastafarian flag-as he took the patrons through Addis Ababa, Zion Train, One Stone, Payday, International Herb, Ganja Time, Jah Rastafari, Innocent Blood and many more hits from their golden era.
The thrill was perfectly sustained when the late Evison Matafale’s Blacks, with Anjiru passionately performing Sing a Song, Poison So Sweet, International Music, Rasta Has the Answer and other English songs that often go unsung.
Lucius Banda, whose Impakt Events imported the renowned Jamaicans, described the Blantyre leg as successful and some randomly selected fans said it was worthwhile and more than they bargained for.
“We got what we wanted and more. When he took a break, we were happy to leave, but he got back on stage as we filed out,” said Eric Mwale, a patron from Bangwe.
Another one said K10 000 was simply too little for the delight.