n any enterprise, one always hopes to sign off on a high. There is no honour more befitting than watching the curtain fall behind amid applause.
As the year was drawing to an end, all my thoughts were focused on how I will tailor my last entry. I had imagined how I would expound on what a great year it has been in the arts and entertainment world.
I thought I would find space to talk about the memorable performance of South Africa’s hip-hop ace Kwesta during Entertainers Promotions 50th anniversary celebrations at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.
I thought I would lay thoughts again on the bombshell of an album that guitar maestro Lulu released in 2019. I had good things to say about how impressive the Mulhakho Wa Alhomwe was.
I would have said something about the Sand Music Festival which took place at Kabumba Hotel. In my plans, I wanted to say a thing or two about the emergence of musician Wikise who has slowly, but surely established himself as a household name.
These and many other issues would have meant I have signed off on a note that would have satisfied my soul. It would have signified a happy year ending for me. But circumstances have led me to close my 2019 folder with a tear.
In quick succession the music and entertainment industry was shocked with the passing of two dear sons. First, it was the super music producer Joseph Tembo who answered God’s call on a sombre Thursday afternoon after a short illness at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
Three days later, news came through of yet another death in the fraternity. Black Missionaries guitarist Owen Hulera breathed his last on Saturday evening.
As I was getting my diary together on Thursday morning, I was greeted by what turned out to be fake news. The social media was awash with reports that Congolese songbird Mbilia Bel had died.
Upon interrogation of this piece of news, it turned to be fake. Together with colleagues in the newsroom we expressed our worry at the growing tendency of sending people to an early grave.
We talked of several examples had initially disturbed the people only to turn out to be false. The recent one being that of musician Joseph Nkasa who was rumoured to have died on his birthday some few weeks ago. Very unfortunate.
As the day wore on I stumbled on some disturbing news which suggested artist Joseph Tembo had died. The Mbilia Bel incident quickly came to my mind and I decided to let it pass. I did not even spare a second to make mention of that to anyone. It was outright false. I told myself.
Moments later, I received two quick inquiries on the same from my senior colleagues. They had heard it too. I dismissed the news again. But my explanations to them had no real basis and they insisted that I find out if it’s true or not.
Hesitantly I fished out my phone and called Denis Kalimbe the Ndirande Anglican Voices music director. We always talk on some hyper tempo. Our conversations do not even contain any decorum. They can start and end anyhow, we normally don’t even afford a greeting.
But on Thursday the voice which responded to my call on the other end surprised me. Something was amiss indeed. “Mukuti bwanji za Jose adha.” I quickly put it to him. On the other end Denis was breaking. I could feel it.
He fought hard and recollected himself. He finally got the strength to confirm my worst assumptions. The guitar wizard was indeed no more. The man who had shaped and built careers of plenty artists in Malawi had walked his last mile.
For everything that has been in as far as arts and entertainment is concerned, it will be bad that it will also be remembered as the year the local music industry said goodbye to two of its dedicated soldiers. Rest well Jose and Owen. See you in 2020, hopefully!