Peter Amidu: blacks’ reggae anchor

If you believe that reggae music cannot be separated from the Rastafarian movement, then you would be justified to declare that bassist Peter Amidu is the anchor of Black Missionaries Band’s reggae music genre.

He is the only Rastafarian in the band, which incidentally was also founded by a devoted rastaman; the fallen local reggae king Evison Matafale. Another fallen reggae icon Musamude Fumulani, who took over from Matafale, was also a rasta.

Amidu (L) relaxing with other members of Ma Blacks Anjiru (C) and Chizondi

Amidu had a brush with music back in 1998 while staying in Zomba with his parents when he met musicians Andrew Kamangwa, who used to play in the Police Orchestra Band, and Owen Huleya, who now plays with the Black Missionaries.

The rasta bassist confessed that at that time, he never knew how to play any musical instrument.  However, what Kamangwa and Huleya opened his musical eyes.

But he only started playing the instrument when he met Simon Aironi in Zomba.

Aironi had a guitar made from an empty box locally known as a ‘gallon guitar’. He used to do a lot of covers of Robert Fumulani and Likhubula River Dance Band as well as Brenda Fassie, among others.

“This really excited me a lot and ignited interest. I was always wondering how he was managing to do that,” said Amidu.

When Aironi later made two more such guitars, he gave one to Amidu, a gesture that launched his career.

“It was funny because I didn’t know what to do with it at the time,” said Amidu.

“However, since my interest had already grown to a certain level, I started experimenting with it on my own.”

Keen observation whenever Aironi was playing his guitar helped Amidu to finally crack it when he made some coordinated tunes on his newly acquired handmade instrument.

Towards the end of 1998 after he had made huge progress, he decided to move to Blantyre and by early 1999, he started playing with Slashers Band.

Chizondi Fumulani, who is Amidu’s colleague in the Black Missionaries, recalls that he first met Peter around the same period when Slashers Band went to perform at one of the Napolo taverns in Chileka.

“As little kids, we went there to watch the band perform but it was while they took a break that I accompanied Anthony [Makondetsa] who took Peter and other band members on a tour of our hall [built by their father the late Robert Fumulani] as an alternative venue,” he said.

This seems to have jogged Amidu’s memory during the interview and he then remembered that at this occasion he had asked for a glass of water.

He turned to Chizondi and said: “You brought me a big cup full of water!”

Around the formative period of a band called Uhuru, Amidu performed with the Slashers Band for a year before bidding his goodbye with owner Binny Nkolokosa.

Uhuru Band was rocked with disagreements between the band members and owner and promoter Jai Banda which proved to be to Amidu’s advantage.

Uhuru Band used to play at Shelter Club in Blantyre every Friday and one such Friday when all was set, the band members never turned up to perform as the disagreements had reached an irreconcilable point.

“That’s when a gentleman by the name Oris Machilo, who had been the equipment manager for Bright Nkhata, told Jai that there was a band that had been performing in Napolo Ukana taverns,” he said.

He said Jai didn’t hesitate

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