In recent times, the State House has tended to host awards that seek to honour distinguished Malawians but end up being headlined by foreign artists. The upcoming Women of Distinction Awards (Woda), to be graced by MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s First Lady Callista Mutharika next month, is destined to be another page of the same script.
After playing host to South Africa’s Rebecca Malope, Sipho Hot Stix Mabuse and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the recent editions of MBC Our People Our Pride Awards, the presidential palace in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe, is awaiting Congolese soukous star Kanda Bongo Man, who last visited the country under Zikhale Promotion in 1993.
According to Woda spokesperson Tamara Chafunya, the 57-year-old kwasa kwasa star will star alongside localsÃ¢â‚¬â€legend Maria Chidzanja-Nkhoma, gospel songbird Rudo Chakwera, ragga queen Wendy Harawa, Masintha CCAP Choir and poets Linda Gabriel and Chigo Gondwe-ChokaniÃ¢â‚¬â€at a red-carpet gala slated for the International Women’s Day on March 10.
WithÃ‚Â the local playlist sparkling with female acts, The Nation asked the organisers why they had settled for a male international headliner instead of leaving the floor to inspirational women in the creative industry whose contribution the award seek to recognise.
Chafunya argues it is feminist to question the role of Kanda Bongo Man at the Women’s Day event, saying: “It’s not a particular individual, but a committee which opted for the international star.
“The awards are not all about women. We feel the participation of men will honour women achievers in one way or another. After all, we coexist.”
The publicist disclosed that the committee was finalising the deal to bring the Paris-based star for the show, organised by Zilanie Nyundo’s Blackmore Creative Agency in partnership with Callista Mutharika Safe Motherhood Foundation, Airtel, Nation Publications Limited and other media houses.
Nyundo also heads Cream Women in the Arts (Cream! Wita), a network which lobbies for greater space and participation of female talent in the country’s male-dominated entertainment sector.
In a separate interview, she said the inclusion of Malawian performers is enough recognition of local talent, considering that most internationally acclaimed female artists did not respond to invitations.
She explained: “We sent out invitations to a number of women artists outside the country, but it was on short notice. Most of them were not available and we couldn’t afford [them]. So, we are grateful with the coming of Kanda Bongo Man. The awards are all about men and women celebrating distinguished women together.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kanda Bongo Man, born in 1955, is a prominent soukous musician. He joined Orchestra Belle Mambo in 1973.
His solo career only took off after moving to Paris in 1979, where he embraced elements of zouk.
While there, he revolutionised soukous by encouraging guitar solos after every verse and at the beginning of the songÃ¢â‚¬â€giving birth to kwasa kwasa dance rhythm.
Having become a sensation in Europe and US, the musician twice toured the country in 1989 and 1994 under Ken Zikhale Ng’oma’s Zikhale Promotions.
He will perform at the State House after releasing Non-Stop Feeling in 2010.
The awards seek to honour women achievers in music, fashion, dance, theatre, visual arts and cinema. Other categories include business, activism, health, maternal health, science and technology, media, public service, equal opportunity employer, agriculture and sports.