Good people, Balaka music is not dead. Alleluya Band founding leader Paul Banda and his Zembani brother Lucius modernised still command thousands of muted victims who trekked to Nkhata Bay to watch Billy Kaunda’s comeback show at the weekend.
Suit-obsessed Billy has no small following. It appears many are thirsting for his offerings.
This was vivid when multitudes edged closer to his stage, sang along, danced their sweat out and demanded more from the politician-cum-musician who served as a parliamentarian from 2004 to 2014.
There was no resentment in the air when he reappeared along with Chris Kelly and Lilongwe Baptist Choir having been ejected from the legislature. Just fans, fun and the joy prodigal singers get in their gig cultures.
The setting was the stunning sands of Chikale Beach on a sunny Sunday and the time check 5.10 pm. The Likoma Festival Easter bash was in full swing on the beach and fun-seekers neared the picturesque stage when a boisterous MC announced Billy would be on stage 4.01pm sharp.
The nostalgic fans did not retreat though Billy only showed up over an hour later.
Such is wanted music that even those swimming and imbibing in a free-for-all zone of Chikale beach moved closer to a reed-mat divide that split them from fun-seekers who coughed K2 000 to watch Billy, Piksy, Maskal and other performers.
But Billy’s reception from the opener Mtendere Wanga to the shutdown hit Akanafuna, notwithstanding his 1998 swashbuckling debut Mwapindulanji, was food for thought.
After the political hiatus, Billy Kaunda’s music was supposed to be a forgotten dinosaur silently gathering dust in archives where oldies belong.
However, here just overshadowed fresh-blooded music stars, the likes of overrated Mafo who tortured his eager audience with seemingly drunken shouts; Black Face Family whose music remains unknown beyond their Mzuzu household and many others who chocked ears with scratchy sound from the instruments Billy fine-tuned to crystal clear sounds.
Urban music stars must up their game, for being outshined by an oldie last seen over 10 years ago is failing indeed.
The mediocrity among happy-go-lucky urban music artists is so scary that Piksy and Maskal had to sweat blood to steer a spark in the audience Billy had put on fire.
It was puzzling why the organisers had settled for Maskal and Piksy to headline the Easter fest when the one-time bestseller was just about the most wanted.
The youthful pair put up a good show, but not good enough to prove beyond a doubt why they deserved the glow in the night.
Throughout, it was very easy to empathise with Billy’s countless sympathisers. They have been starved and dumped in suspense, waiting for more days when they will hear him sing Agalatiya, Alibe Mau, Mphinjika Yawo and all that jazz live.
They have been abandoned and let down since Billy decided to devout himself to politics where trigger-happy voters rejected him anyway. Behind the faces rejoicing in his one-off live show beyond Lilongwe Baptist Church was the cry: Billy! Billy! Lama sabachthani?
Billy, why have you forsaken them?