Victor Kunje aka Vic Marley marked the epoch of a new era in ragga music to a generation that was being exposed to different genres of music, including those from Jamaica.
At 23 in 2003, he appealed to the youth who, just like him, had embraced modernity in his lifestyle and music. Marley came into the limelight in 2003 with his single Malilime before releasing his debut album, Mau Anga. From then up to the time of his demise in 2005, the young generation had fallen in love with his style of music.
Radio broadcasters and music commentators say that until Marley ventured into the music industry with his hi-ho music style in 2003, ragga music had little appeal to many young people.
According to Carim Mpaweni, a radio presenter at taxpayer funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Marley was an artist who brought change in the way artists performed ragga.
“His music style stirred interest in the music circles, especially among the youth of his generation. He had a unique style of singing. He introduced his own music style and he maintained it,” he says.
Annie Matumbi, the late Vic Marley’s close friend, describes the fallen ragga artist as exceptionally talented and skilled in his music style.
“Vic Marley brought in a new ragga style which was performed in Jamaica, but was not known in the country. He creatively added a new touch to it. He fused it with his local beat style of hi-ho and the result was an instant success. With this music style, he won the hearts of the young generation,” he says.
Matumbi, a ragga artist as well, explains that what sets Marley apart as a music genius was his originality, creativity and skill in the way he came up with music compositions.
“He was unique on his own. The ideas he articulated in music were mature, brilliant and important to society. In short, the lyrical content of his songs was great,” he says.
Another musician, Fuggie Kasipa, speaking to The Nation in 2005, a day after Marley’s demise, described him as an exceptional musician.
“He was one of the few musicians in the country who was able to develop his own music. It will take Malawi sometime to find another creative musician such as Marley,” he said then.
Commenting in the same paper, Anjilu Fumulani, a member of Black Missioneries Band, said Marley put Malawi music on the map with his style which was unique.
A music promoter, Tonderai Banda, says Marley had his own type of music and singing style that endeared him to music lovers, especially the youth.
On his part, Matumbi cites songs such as Zimbabwe and Adaferanji (Aida) as some of his great compositions in lyrical content and style.
“In Zimbabwe, the talented artist was discussing challenges facing Zimbabweans and relating them to Malawi. This showed his understanding of the issues of that time.
“His message was concerning the whole of Africa. An artist is the one who sings about the challenges people are facing,” says Matumbi.
Marley also did a song with Matumbi titled Chidikhodikho which criticises some people for being jealousy towards other people’s success.
However, Mpaweni hails Traffic police as a song that tackles real issues happening in everyday life, especially concerning minibus drivers and the traffic police.
“One could not think of a song that could talk about the cat and mouse relationship between traffic police officers and minibus drivers. It is this ability to see things from another level and sing beautifully that earned him a special place in Malawi’s music industry,” he says.
Another song Mpaweni hails is Pokhapokha in which the artist is appealing to Malawians to love one another by supporting local artists or products.
“In the song, Marley is criticising people who prefer foreign things to local ones. He is calling for patriotism in the song,” he says.
Marley’s contribution to the music industry is a lot, according to Banda, as he also happens to be one of the people who recorded some of Marley’s songs.
“I worked with Vic Marley. In fact, we are the ones who produced Traffic police and a couple of other songs. I remember that he was one of the first young musicians to hold live solo band shows.
“By then, many young artists liked to use CDs [compact disks] in their shows. After his demise, everyone has gone back to CDs,” says Banda.
Vic Marley was one of the first young artists to produce and launch a music album, according to Banda.
“It was popular for young artists in those days just to produce singles and not put them into an album. But Marley showed his generation that a young artist can record a music album,” he says.
Soon after his demise on May 24, other artists have tried to imitate his music style to connect with his fan base, but have not succeeded, music commentators say.
“Even his young brother, Star Marley, who stepped into the shoes of his brother [Marley], found them too big and threw in the towel. To no avail, he tried to mimic his brother’s singing style, but fell by the way-side,” explains Mpaweni on Marley’s talent.
Meanwhile, Annie Matumbi continues to lament over the passing on of his best friend whom he says would have achieved greater things in music if he had lived to this day.
As he sang in his tribute with Dustan Kapitapita and Lulu that “imfa ya Vic Marley/Ine sindingayiwale/ndzalirabe mpaka kale/Poti iye anali monga mbale…” so will his fans continue to remember him for his hi-ho music style.