Blantyre is dictating its way through urban music and there is no holding it back.
On Saturday, all roads in the city led to Robin’s Park where rising rapper Achina Gattah Ase was performing supported by other urban artists.
The show can be described as the city’s most celebrated urban music performance of this year thus far.
The venue’s large squared carpark glittered like Christmas. Patrons who came to witness the new king of the street perform live, queued patiently on the slow ticket contours before rain drizzles dispersed them to cram and push with security at the fore of the entrance, but that was just around 3pm.
Outside, organisers quickly arranged a separate mobile booth for entry coupons as boys and girls fished out K2 000 notes in exchange for blue or green entry tags. As reporters coolly shared jokes with patrons, a youngman in dreadlocks staggered to the ticket stand and yelled, “Gattah ndi bambo anga koma ndili ndi K800, ndilowe apa!” (Gattah is my father, but I have K800 only. Let me in!)
But the calm outside the hall was not meant to last long. The rain showers persisted. A more peaceful audience would soon prefer to make early entrance. At around 4pm, the outdoor was extremely packed. Alcoholic beverages were being consumed. In no time, fist fights made quick reputation and thievery persisted. A seasoned radio DJ approached the reporters’ spot, helpless after his phone had been stolen as he tried to force his way through the entrance.
After several curtain-raisers from both established and blooming rappers, Achinah Gattah Ase stormed the stage. He was shirtless and wore a plain white pair of trousers.
Gattah’s outfit was not strange. Old school hip-hop enthusiasts would recall that it resembles the swagger of fallen US rap legend Tupac Shakur who donned as such when he performed at the House of Blues right after his release from prison. For over an hour, Gattah, real name Mike Nkhaya, was dripped in sweat as he did what the Ghetto knows best.
Gattah’s stage work took a tight grip on the audience that could not help, but hop and sing along after thug-poetic tracks such as Streets and Gangster Azime.
At the end of his performance, renowned dancehall artist, Black Jak grabbed the mic. He did a few honours for the main performer and by way of ceremoniously clothing him in a T-shirt, Black Jak also crowned Gattah as the new King on the local hip-hop scene as was dubbed by the gig’s name, ‘King Wa Street Concert’.
After his performance, a few established local rappers such as Seven O More and Home Grown Africa took the stage.
However, what brought a lot of discomfort during the fiesta was the fact that the tightly filled hall was a dark heated room that was filled with fear and suspicion.
Pockets of drunken patrons would be seen wrestling throughout the show. There seemed to have been less control to limit the number of people entering the hall. Further to that, the lighting on the stage was dim. The backstage team could be seen from afar guiding the performers using mobile phone flashlights. Even from the second floor of the auditorium, one could hardly see what was happening on the stage.
One of the key organisers of the show, Chisomo Gonthi, who also runs M.O.D Studios, said the concert was a success, but refused to comment on concerns over violence, lighting and overcrowding.