Reggae artists find English off-key

Fostered Legacy have announced the coming of their second album with a rude awakening—English songs just don’t strike a chord in the minds of buyers of Malawian music.

Like Prince Martin and Soul Raiders, the reggae band was born in the corridors of University of Malawi colleges and came on the scene with an all-English album, The Legacy of Fostered Legacy, two years ago.

On Friday, drummer-cum-bassist Dr Evans Chisama said their upcoming release, Reggae Business, contains Chichewa songs to the delight of their fans who felt sidelined by the debut.

Said Chisama: “As a group, we insist on an international touch. We feel English is good for artists who want to make it beyond the borders. But locally, it limits the music to a learned few,”

“Most of those who buy tapes and CDs are rural based and illiterate. Still, they want to hear the message. So we have included vernacular songs to make the messages accessible and acceptable to a majority of our fans.”

Apart from the medical doctor, Fostered Legacy includes his brothers—lawyer Peter and agricultural researcher Ben—and their nephew Baruch, a humanities student at Chancellor College.

Their Chichewa additions include Mu Ghetto Muli Luso, Umphawi, Chikondi Chozama, Ndimakukonda, Nkhaza, Chibale and Mukumane Nane. The English titles include Dream Come True, If You Believe, Reggae Fun and Holy Spirit.

Similarly, Prince Martin and The Soul Raiders have incorporated Chichewa songs in his upcoming album, recorded by Ralph Ching’amba of Ralph Records. Eight of the 12 songs in the band’s self-titled album are done in local lingo, while the It’s So Sad star has included two.

Despite being quoted as saying he clings to English because he sings for fun—not for money—Martin recently told The Nation the shift is meant to reach out to wider audience.

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