There is a classical sound that has been playing for over 40 years. Despite the local music scene undergoing so much transformation the past two decades, this particular music has not lost its touch.
It has and continues to be synonymous with Balaka District and Paul Banda is the brains behind the Balaka rhythm as it is fondly called.
So when news broke about Paul being unwell and requiring K20 million for medical treatment abroad, some of the artists that have drunk from the legend’s well came together to organise a fundraising show.
Those that followed the event on Saturday night on Mibawa TV and on Facebook will attest to the fact that the Balaka rhythm is still alive and unbeatable.
Scores of artists, including Favoured Martha and Ethel Kamwendo Banda, took turns to entertain fans, both at home and in the studio.
While the two proved why they are some of the recognisable voices on the gospel music arena, it was when the different voices from Balaka emerged that more fireworks were seen.
The numbers of those watching on Facebook grew from over 200 to 500. At the peak of the show, about 700 fans from Malawi and abroad were following the event via social media.
With Alleluya Band on stage, the wheels of Balaka rhythm were fast gaining momentum. On the lead vocals was Sean Taferakaso who started his set with Tsalani then Ana Amasiye, all by the late Paul Chaphuka. It was a befitting tribute to Chaphuka, who succumbed to cancer on May 10, 24 years ago.
Meanwhile, the songs were recorded at Paul’s Imbirani Yahweh Studios, popularly known as IY studios, which, according to one of his long-time friends Raphael Piringu, has been the backbone of many studios in the country.
“It has been the home of a number of successful musicians as they worked with Paul and later moved on to continue as solo artists or establish their own music studios.
“Some long-time musicians learnt playing instruments from him. The song that welcomed Pope John Paul II to Malawi was done by Paul and Alleluya band,” he said in an interview on Mibawa TV.
Back to the gig, another formidable force from Balaka, Pat ‘Abiggie’ Tung’ande, was also in for a good night. Typical of him, the musician was in his element as he impressed fans with dancing antics which he did with Alleluya Band dancers.
However, the band got in full force when Coss Chiwalo assumed the role of Paul Banda. He started the performance with Kodi Tidzatani? Nthawi Imafika before moving to Ndidzamtanda Ambuye and Ndaona Zodabwitsa.
For some people who were just listening to the show, they would think Paul was on stage, yet it was Chiwalo doing justice to the legend’s creations. The only thing visibly missing was the imposing stature of Paul.
Chiwalo then moved to his songs such as Ndisapite ndi Mawu before taking a bow for Father Augustine Kaliu, who started with another of Paul’s classical hit, Malilime.
Paul Subiri started with Chikondi by Banda before reminding fans of the good old days when he and Rod Valamanja used to trade as Njovu Ziwiri za ku Balaka.
Another heavyweight from Balaka, Charles Sinetre, finished the Alleluya Band line-up but the fun and Balaka rhythms were far from over as Zembani Band was up next.
Johnny, son to Paul’s young brother Lucius, dished out some of his father’s hits, including Paulendo, Dzidutswa, Bambo a Janet, Mabala, Kuno Zavuta and Mzimu.
Zembani continued its magic with Nepman and Sam Simakweli before the curtain closed.
To get more contributions, fans were allowed to send money and request a song of their choice. Some of the contributions and pledges of the night came from renowned lawyer Sunduzwayo Madise, Black Missionaries Band, Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda and Great Angels Choir.