The past weeks saw Malawians of all walks of life uniting to send off one of the country’s hip-hop music sons, Martin Nkhata, who was popularly known as Martse.
While it was heartrending to see such a young man transition into the unknown world under such unknown circumstances, it was heartwarming to see Malawians unite in what is fast becoming the new trend in the funeral setup, celebrating the life of the departed rather than merely mourning them.
Joining the masses in paying tribute to a man who has contributed massively to the Malawian music industry, the Tonse Alliance administration embraced the funeral with four ministerial appearances as well as the wife of the Vice-President.
Many commentators have described Martse as a hero and judging by the funeral he was accorded, it is evident that the young man was, indeed, a national hero.
And, following through the events from the announcement of the news about his accident to the interring of his body, one could see the apparition of the saying “heroes never die”.
One could literally see and feel the fallen hero multiplying into a million ghosts that will live long after his death screaming “Too ghetto too gutter”, the brand that Martse is, was, represents and represented.
In those screams, one heard the definition of ghetto as a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups, which Martse himself did not only represent, but actually personified.
In the very same screams, one heard the aspirations of the ghetto for a better life, which echoed even in the moments when his fellow artists, by whom he is survived, took turns paying tribute to him.
Martse perfectly encapsulated the ghetto in two of his songs, Mkatimo, in which he featured Hyphen and Barry Uno, and Malume in which he featured Nepman, both of which play on the notion of kugona panja (sleeping outside).
On the one hand, Mkatimo depicts a life of affluence or considerable affluence, which affords those that live it the opportunity to party all night long, drinking and smoking, among other things, and simply having fun.
On the other hand, Malume, depicts a life of the poor who are not even able to afford a roof over their heads. In apostrophe fashion, musicians from different ghettos in Blantyre, who are employed to represent the ghetto masses in general and the Malawian musicians in particular, register their grievances with their uncle, pleading with him to look after them for they do not have a roof over their heads and they are forced to sleep outside.
Such is the juxtaposition in which Malawian youths, who are in majority in the country, find themselves torn between; the one world is the affluent lifestyle often flaunted in music and social media and the reality on the ground, which is characterised by Chibrazi expressions such “pa galaundi sipali boo” (the situation on the ground is tough).
In fact, a deep analysis of Martse’s lyrics, the majority of which are rendered in Chibrazi, the urban contact vernacular language of Malawi, reveals the deep seated real issues that the Malawian populace in general is grappling with on a daily basis.
The fact that government embraced the funeral with such a powerful presence serves as solace and assurance that Malume, representing government, got the message from his Mbumba (nephews and nieces), representing the citizenry.
The message to ‘Uncle’ is that the best way of seeing the legacy of Martse living on like that of a true hero is by ensuring that the gutter in which the ghetto masses currently are is gutted so that the plight of the ghetto masses is improved.
Martse himself tried his best to promote his music by always including in his songs the call for his fans to stream and download Malawi music (nyimbo za chiMalawi) from www.Malawi-music.com in order to generate revenue to support the industry.
But, as the down-to-earth man that he was in his lyrics, he never wanted to get his hopes up, probably in cognizance of the fact that the ghetto was too gutter; hence his plea to Malume, instead.