Like a black spot of ink on a white sheet of paper, you cannot miss Mazz Marillat when he is lost doing his thing for Zembani Band.
Queer as it may be, Mazz plays the unexpected instruments in the band: the jembe.
The jembe (or djembe), bongos, tomtoms and dumbas, among other drums, are African musical instruments, so to see the amazing Mazz ably handling them, awe can paint your face.
â€œMy playing the jembe brings strong reactions. After every show, I get people who are amused by it, wanting to know more about my game,â€ says Mazz.
Since 2010, Mazz has been performing with Zembani Band and he has fond memories about Malawi. One of the greatest moments, he recalls, was at the 2010 Lake of Stars Festival in Mangochi.
That year, Malawi music giants Black Missionaries and Lucius Banda, under the auspices of Mr Entertainer, Jai Banda, had a parallel event at Zitherepano Pub.
Dubbed the Sand Music Festival, the do was organised after the artists felt cheated by organisers who were paying foreign artists much more than local artists.
Recalls Mazz: â€œI was performing with Sally Nyundo at the Lake of Stars that night. It was an affluent kind of show, with lots of Westerners. Then, I had to perform for Zembani at Zithere. That was a show to remember. It was great seeing the people enjoying themselves!â€
Not only that. The other day in May 2010, power went out at The Warehouse in Blantyre when Zembani were on stage. The keyboards and guitars went off. Lucius could not dish out the lyrics for the mic could not pick up.
Guess who kept the patrons on their feet? It was Mazz on bongos, and Apatsa Kwilimbe on drums.
â€œThat was a day I will never forget. It was a time I realised that the jembe is not just an instrument that has no real impact on music. There was no way I could hide for everyone was looking at me. It is not just about improvising the rhythm that does not really fit in the songâ€™s structure. Its effect can be felt if you let it,â€ says Mazz, who resides in Che Mussa, Blantyre.
Born 37 years ago, Mazz is originally from Cardiff, South Wales in the UK. He recalls that he got his first jembe in an African heritage shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He first performed with Lucius in London.
His music journey has led him to perform for a samba band, with close to 50 people playing percussions in South American carnivals. He has also performed in various UK salsa clubs.
How did he end up in Malawi?
â€œI was married to a Malawian, but we broke up. Three things happened to me at the time: I started performing with Lucius, I broke up with my wife and I had the worst malaria bout in my life,â€ says Mazz.
Being in Malawi for sometime has helped him appreciate Malawi music. He says Malawian artists are hardworking, with some performing for 10 hours on end. Malawian musicians, he adds, are versatile; they are able to handle various instruments with talent and skill.
â€œOne thing I have noted about Malawi music is that there is overuse of the keyboards. I wish keyboardists could just set the keyboards on organ or piano, instead of the artificial sounds they often use,â€ he observes.
The smallest speck, they say, is seen on snow. And like a bit of charcoal on the golden sands of Lake Malawi, Mazz remains spectacular, a beauty to watch. He is different.