Long road to city life

A rolling stone gathers no moss, so they say.

But when the steep slopes of life guarantee you no ridge to rest on and wait for moss to gather in your palms, rolling about might help comb the valley for alternatives.

Jay Jay (L) has over the years demonstrated his worth behind the microphone

It could be true with the 34-year-old master of renditions John ‘Jay Jay’ Kutsokwe whose durability along a rugged music career has seen him endure setbacks and sing to the summit at which sit Malawi’s celebrated live performance vocalists.

Born John Robert Kutsokwe Junior on  March 16 1984-last of six children that the world gave to late Kutsokwe Senior of Kambuku Village, Traditional Authority Makwangwala in Ntcheu-the vocalist has dated venues plentiful and caressed ears innumerable.

In the last decade, Kutsokwe has demonstrated his worth behind the microphone, entertaining patrons at live music shows where his ability to competently dish out renditions from the world over has earned him praise.

After performing with a rainbow of Blantyre-based bands, the last being Mizati Band, Kutsokwe has now relocated to Lilongwe where he is in romance with City Life Band, a new group expected to date Cockpit Lounge three Sundays in a month and is tonight courting Four Season’s Chameleon Bar.

“I’ve come a long way. The road had many bends but sometimes that is all you need to mature into a man worth his career,” says the diminutive Kutsokwe.

 

Humble beginnings

Coming into this world via a carpenter father who later took preaching for a calling, Kutsokwe may never have thought of making it any further than the church garden music assignments.

“My dad died a Bishop of the United Living Gospel Church in Ndirande. My late sister Martha, who was the first born in our family, was in the United Living Gospel Church choir. So was my other sister, Rose, a singer.

He must have followed in their path as he was playing keyboards as early as 14.

A few years later, coaxed by the allure of fellow young ghetto talents making it on bigger stages other than the church veranda, Kutsokwe found himself in Ndirande’s backyard band, Images, which successfully fronted Ragga, a subgenre of dancehall and reggae music.

The outfit was home to notable names such Sally Nyundo (lead guitar), as Diwa Khwiliro and his late brother Wiliam (on keyboards).

Nonetheless, a year in Malawi’s music industry is a long time, full of events. It, therefore, did not take so many years for Images to break up, seeing Kutsokwe and late Khwiliro attaching themselves to a band a couple of townships away from the ghetto of Ndirande.

The two joined Young Generations, a Chigumula-based band which at some point surprised the local music scene with Afiti Opemphera.

 

Winds of change

The winds of change were still blowing. A little later he landed at Uhuru Band, joining the likes of vocalist Pretty Boy, real name Wyson Matola.

“By then the late Khwiliro was in secondary school and our performing together was a bit infrequent,” he says.

Uhuru was in its last days and by the time it folded, Kutsokwe was now many kilometres in another direction.

“I joined Big Man Andy’s and Matumbi Vibrations which was Road House’s resident band in Lunzu.

But Kutsokwe’s rolling business was far from over. By 2006, he was with Mizati Band, an outfit that started off under the wing of one George Chinseu and later was ran and owned by former Musicians Association of Malawi Chairperson, Costen Mapemba.

The boys parted ways with Mapemba and formed their own group-Maziko Band. Sweet months saw the band grow together. Maziko became a sensation.

No wonder along their green patch they caught the eye of entertainment company Nde’feyo.

“Maziko signed a contract with Nde’feyo and went on to back the company’s artists. We had a wonderful time together until a new band in town, John Nthakomwa’s Mibawa, came searching for a male vocalist.

“I had to follow my luck because the offer was too good to resist. So, in 2012 I crossed to the other side of town and joined Mibawa,” he recounts.

At Mibawa, Kutsokwe combined so perfectly with songstress Eunice Kadzuwa-Mhango on vocals.

Mibawa was the talk of the town. It became the hottest live music rendezvous’ around the city. Kutsokwe and Kadzuwa-Mhango were the flower heads with their powerful chemistry on vocals.

But lady luck was elusive.

“We were involved in car accident somewhere into Mozambique and we lost one of our own – Donia Khuma. It was one of the worst moments in my music career,” mourns the vocalist.

 

Back to his roots

Back home to heal, the melodies were not going to get any smoother with Mibawa. Circumstances saw Kadzuwa-Mhango and Kutsokwe part ways with the group.

Amid a citywide discourse on how the two would get back to their feet, they were soon back on stage as Mizu Band, this time around backed by a group of five that had earlier traded as Impact Sounds.

Mizu – literally translated, roots-was a wonder to behold.

“We were growing and saw need to have someone who could handle some pressures such as recruitments and replacements in our stead. We then had Emmanuel Maliro as manager.

“Mizu Band was family and still is. But around June this year, I felt I had to make a painful decision to follow a desire I have always carried deep down my soul, and that was to promote my own album.

“Considerations around that dream saw me move from Blantyre to Lilongwe where I am now settling down well with my wife in readiness of promoting my recently finalised 10-cut album, Lonjezo Langa.

It is now with the help of the newly found City Life family that Kutsokwe hopes to launch and promote his album.

“I am lucky that along this road I have met a group of friends who also share the ambition to cut own albums. That makes us equals. I am, therefore, just as indebted to them as they are to me to uplift each other,” says the father of two-daughter Mayamiko, 13, and son Mbewu, 3.

Living a day at a time, Kutsokwe and the City Life Band today perch at Four Season’s Chameleon Bar.

This is a stone rolling on and on.

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