Of bands and kugawana zida

Good people, politics and art are intertwined.

Some creative minds use their voices, spaces and works to discuss happenings or mishaps in the dirty game, just as musician Lucius Banda recently used his live performance in Dowa to speak against corrupt leaders.

The self-styled Soldier of the Poor lives politics. Politics, if not music, is what he does best.

Rewind to his humble beginnings. It is 1993, a dictator is ruling Malawi for the 31st year. Challengers are being jailed or expelled. The weather still is not  good for the old man. Dissent is growing. A wind of change is blowing. Protests against detention of trade unionist Chakufwa Chihana, who wanted his blood to fuel the struggle for democracy, show the downfall of the granddaddy revered as the life president, messiah, lion, father and founder of the nation is unstoppable. Soon, Malawians will choose between tyranny and democracy. They choose change in a historic referendum. But the mislabelled despot loses it all the following year when Malawians elect Bakili Muluzi to lead them in the new era.

Exit Kamuzu and his minions. How the mighty fall!

Enter Lucius Banda and the hit single Mabala, from the album Son of a Poor Man, which carries the hopes of the renewed nation and reminds politicians inebriated by power that every song comes to an end.

Inu mumati zidzakhala choncho mpaka liti, abale? Ana a Mulungu sangakhale kulira masiku onse a moyo wawo,” he sings.

Nothing remains the same forever except God, and His children cannot keep crying in bondage.

Art gives its servants a voice, style and methods to say what many people fear to utter and others only whisper when they bury themselves in thick beddings-those soundproofs for those who believe walls have ears.

Artists sometime tackle burning issues at the peril of their fingers and mouths.

Mabala races back to Israelites’ slavery days in Egypt, where the Chosen Ones walked free the day their oppressor and his army drowned in the Red Sea in a narrow escape marshalled by a stammering Moses.

So long a journey!

It’s 25 years since Malawi elected the lamp of democracy.

Lucius music speaks of the wind the flame has survived on the road to where we are, whether up or down.

He spoke for many when Malawians were tired of anyone running the country like a one-man band. He lost some when he sang praise of Muluzi, who almost revamped life presidency using the rejected Open Term Bill. He returned to ‘the people’ when he chanted down Bingu wa Mutharika’s iron-fisted rule.

In Dowa, he urged Malawians to vote wisely next year because the country needs honest and corruption-free leaders.

If the incumbents needed another damning diagnosis of cancer plaguing Malawi, this is it!

The world knows us as a corrupt nation and we are not doing enough to stop it.

Last week, Vice-President Saulos Chilima said corruption has reached embarrassing levels and band ikhoza kugawana zida.

Give the VP a guitar if it is not the microphone he wants.

Kugawana zida is the stuff politicians borrow from the world of music, where a band is nothing without singers and players of instruments playing their tools harmoniously to churn out one song.

Orchestras offer compelling testimonies that it is possible for a group to sing that song and achieve shared glory if they work in harmony.

Dear politicians, the most exalted conductor-even the best kitted one—is nothing unless the orchestra sings one song and play their part compliantly.

Kugawana zida is the opposite, zithepo zithepo.

Imagine Police Band members running away with the props just when the President is standing aloft in anticipation for the national anthem?

When the music stops, thumbs go up or down. n

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