I first saw this surviving acoustic music dinosaur play some two decades ago in a tiny, congested space between Limbe’s market and Chibuku Tavern.
By then, Limbe and surrounding areas were no strangers to ‘play for a coin’ artists of the then Gides’ type.
Every day was awash with funnily dressed solo artists or bands brandishing crude music instruments.
Their acts were even as cheap as the audience would bargain for.
So, what caught my attention about Gides was not the crowd that he had won. I had seen larger crowds before.
It was not even about the drunk ‘fathers’ recklessly perching on the tavern’s brick wall and calling for an encore.
Limbe had already shown me drunk, bare-chested old men dancing to tunes of ‘jazz river’ bands.
What caught my eye was the ‘revolt’ with which he defied expectations and strummed with the strength of a teenager.
You see, two decades ago, Gides was already old, and going by his already creasing hands and face, he seemed to have had no more than a decade to pack enough power to strum for a living.
Come on to America,
If I had much money,
I would go to see in America…
The vocals were funny, a mix of Chichewa and muddled English. But the killing of the Queen’s language does not matter.
What does is the aptitude with which he masters his plucking, and the weight of the message behind the bleeding English.
His interaction with the audience was one of the best I have ever seen to this day.
His simplicity of lyrics makes it so easy to follow his line of thought, but in no way does it dilute the rich socio-cultural lectures that his music has grown to be synonymous with.
So, for that day, despite going home to face the music for being pick pocked of the money I was supposed to buy home essentials with, I wrote Gides’ name on a special page in my heart!
The true mark of an artist is in their resilience and belief in what they do, regardless of their age, race, colour, creed or education levels.
For Gides to make a trip to America, it would be the crowning of his long career with which he has always fancied a well-deserved flight to the land of his dreams.
He needs our support.n