A night of music, a night of celebration. Scores thronged the Madsoc Little Theatre in Area 2, Lilongwe, on Friday evening for an independence jazz concert. If the response throughout the night and even afterwards is anything to go by, the concert was more than what people expected.
Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma and Rudo Chakwera blew the house away as they showed music prowess.
The night started with an opera performance by Marlyn Chakwera who is a member of different bands, including Takula and The Amaravi Movement.
Her rich and dark-hued voice has enabled her to enter the world of music, travel and perform at a number of big music festivals abroad. Though she does not do soprano, Marlyn captivated the diverse group of music lovers through her unique sound of A Song For Julia.
She was doing the performance in honour of her fallen friend and one of the few opera singers Malawi, has ever had, Julia Kaphamtengo, who died in June last year. July 3 was the late Julia’s birthday and Marlyn’s seductive harmonies moved many an audience nearly to tears.
It was nearly impossible watching her flow easily through the voice highs and lows opera singing is known for, while put in one’s seat.
A versatile young singer, she proved how much she is willing to push herself and try different styles and genres of music and surely, wherever Julia is, she was proud of the performance.
For those that have never seen Maria perform, they got unquantified dosage of her stage artistry. Even those who have ever watched the sexagenarian rock the stage, will attest that every drop of her performance is brand new as you never can tell what she has up her sleeves.
Struggle song Aluta Continua by Mirriam Makeba ushered Maria on stage. As she slowly danced her way to the stage, some of the patrons seemed not sure of what they were seeing. Perhaps, they had second thoughts if the ‘original last diva’ as the artist is fondly called, would maintain her grip on dancing.
The energy oozing from her entire body, the strength in her voice, the rhythm in her dance moves coupled with a toothy smile, signalled what the audience was in for; a night of music and celebration.
The more she sung Aluta Continua, the more people got interested in her performance and slowly, the stage proved too small for Maria.
From one end to another, the artist was all over and invaded the stage with so much zeal.
As she sung Africa, another Makeba hit, she made First Lady Gertrude Mutharika join her on stage in song.
The First Lady, who others can describe as calm and arguably conservative, showed her musical side as she effortlessly backed Maria in performing the song.
But the pinnacle was yet to come for Maria later instructed Madame Mutharika: “The song says Africa I Love You. I know you are married, so I want you to sing to that special person of yours. Replace Africa with his name.”
As the audience rolled in uncontrollable laughter which the First Lady joined, with little effort but strong voice she changed the chorus into: “Peter I love you,” she repeatedly sung while making slow dance moves.
Maria turned a little emotional with a rendition of the old time classic, From A Distance before she finished her set with a Ngoni war song, Kumanda Kwa Bambo Anga.
In a move that surprised the audience and cracked the ribs of many, when the First Lady was about to make her speech, she called the Vice-President’s wife to sing to her love as well. Led by Maria, with a tinge of shyness, Mary sung: “Oh, Saulos I love you,” as they laughed out hard.
With Rudo on stage, it was more of a lively church service as the gospel artist she is, mainly performed spiritual sings.
Her singing was beautifully pure, angelic and very unique. Just an all round perfect voice; her tonal sound, accuracy of pitch, her vocal runs and her upper power when hitting high notes made her stand out.
To wrap it up, the two ladies dazzled the audience with a joint set of Chitukutuku and Malaika.
They made music that sounded as if it was created for nothing more than the sheer joy of doing so.
The way their voices blended it was pure delight. Both fell effortlessly in behind the other, never upstaging and always supporting.
As the fun reached its climax for some, sadly it had come to an end for Maria and Rudo. It was midnight, the break of another day.