Some musicians are like flowers, they blossom and wilt quickly. But some shine until blown away by wind.
Local music star Thomas Chibade once blossomed like Jacaranda trees in the streets of Blantyre with Ulova some 10 years ago only for him to fade quietly. Like a candle he was blown out during a hailstorm that enveloped his life.
Since then, the one-time bestseller has been in hibernation.
Many saw in him an inspirational artist whose music journey would have taken him to the international stage having enjoyed massive airplay locally.
However, not all has been rosy with the short and stout artist, known for his powerful stage performances in army fatigues.
His dreams of becoming an artist worthy admiration quickly came to dust due to piracy, he claims.
Some critics say his career ended in part due to his personal scrape with the law.
“But I am still around and God is still keeping me strong,” says Chibade when we caught up with him at his dilapidated Mgona residence in Area 25, Lilongwe.
Donning a white T-shirt, the once flamboyant musician, says he is living one day at a time in the slums in the capital.
“Piracy squeezed me to a corner. People were no longer buying my original music. They were copying and sharing the music for free while I suffered.
“I was a very famous musician on air, but on the market the record sales were poor,” he laments.
Chibade, fourth born, in a family of five, born in 1986 in Zomba, says the rate of piracy in the country is killing the music industry.
“The problem is forcing some artists especially those of the older generation to take a break.
“I am one of them, music is no longer a paying career and life has been unbearable for me. I have ended up moulding bricks to sustain my life and family,” says the father-of-two. Chibade used to mould bricks before joining music.
He further explains: “I tried doing some small-scale business but to no avail, I am living a miserable life. And I cannot afford a basic mobile phone; hence, some people have to go through my landlord to get in touch with me.”
The former street child-cum-artist blames his misfortune on lack of structures in the music industry to protect artists.
However, Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango acknowledged the challenges artists face. He, however, attributes the situation to high competition and piracy.
“We are living in difficult times and it is not easy to have
returns from music. Competition is stiff and there is a lot of piracy. So, it is not easy for artists, but the association is working hard to assist artists,” he said.
Mhango says MUM is working on strategies to ensure that artists in the country are aware of copyright issues so that they are protected.
Bur Jeston Chipote, a music critic based in Lilongwe, blames artists for mishandling finances when they are successful.
“I think it is more to do with how some artists handle the money when they make it. The lifestyle that comes with being famous forces them to spend too much on useless stuff,” he argues.
But all in all, the pint-sized artist is not looking back. He has fastened his seat belt and is eager to fly higher.
Chibade is seeking to reclaim his spot on the music scene with an album titled Waiwala Momwe Unathera which tackles issues around the HIV and Aids pandemic.
He revealed that he is currently working on new songs for an album to be released this year depending on availability of funds.
“I am working very hard to put out an album this year. But, this will depend on availability of funds. Otherwise, I have recorded a few tracks at Mwai K studio,” he says.
The Zatukusila hitmaker said he has received words of encouragement from people on his reviving the music career.
Chibade, who at the time was popularly known in music showbiz as Chenkhumba started his music career in 2005 and Zatukusila was his great album worth mentioning. It has a magical hit A.E.I.O.U which topped music charts.
His other releases include Mufunse, Kuno Nkumanda, Seven/ Eleven, Ndizakusumira and Dzina Langa.
He was born on February 13 1986 in Likaluma Village in the area of Traditional Authority Chikowi in Zomba District.—Additional reporting by FRANCO MWACHANDE JNR.