Many musicians of his calibre and age are long gone, but that has not deterred veteran artist Giddes Chalamanda from enjoying what he loves most—playing music.
At 90, Chalamanda continues to entertain the masses with his music, guitar and dancing prowess.
If he is not with his favourite cronies Edgar ndi Davis blushing shoulders with some of the big names in Malawi society, he is trekking in and out of his home district Chiradzulu with his two sons doing small gigs. The three make K30 000 per show which they share for their survival.
Agide, as he is fondly known, does that to fend for himself and the family. But behind the energy that comes with his irresistible guitar dexterity that has left some limping off the dancing floor having twisted an ankle or toe, the veteran musician lives in abject poverty.
His strong voice that adorn songs like Linny, Che Meri and Napolo, has unfortunately earned him fame, not wealth.
The money fans give him during shows have done little or nothing to improve the nonagenarian’s life as witnessed recently in a video where the artist is featured by Patience Namadingo.
Frail as the old man looks, Agide’s face and surroundings spell nothing but neediness.
In the motion picture, his face normally lights up every time you talk music with him and his voice transforms into a crispy melody when he sings. However, it is different when he speaks.
As Namadingo initially calls him a 90-year-old celebrity, it makes sense considering the achievements Agide has made in the accoustic music.
For years, he has been part of a movement promoting traditional genres and instruments such as malimba, banjo and babatoni.
However, when Agide is off stage after entertaining the diverse audience he attracts into catchy dancing steps, he rests in a dilapidated house.
What is dangerous about the house is a big crack on one of the sides which, with a small push, will see that side collapsing, rendering him and his family destitute.
Yet this is a long-serving musician, a crowd-puller.
It is through a conversation that the two artists are having that Namadingo says: “Gidess Chalamanda is now a retired musician,” to which the legend agrees.
With the retirement, the legend’s wish, however, is to have a sustainable source of income for his family.
“If I can be selling things like soap, salt, beans, rice through a small shop.
“That will be fine,” he explains.
As a brand ambassador for FDH Bank, Namadingo says the bank will construct a shop for Chalamanda’s survival.
However, the retirement gift has attracted some questions as to why Namadingo is making the key decision on behalf of the legend.
Says Namadingo: “Giddes is a 90-year-old man, he is not a child. He is just tired of going around places to perform. He is not tired of singing and he loves what he does, which is music. But make no mistake, he does not like going around making money like K30 000 to make ends meet.
“So we are doing what he wants to do based on what he said in an interview. This is what the family wants too. If he had a car that he or someone drives him that would have been fine because it’s not just about money but the comfortability too.”
He urges people to show goodwill and take care of the elderly, stating that Agide has reached his retirement age and people must accept it.
“Gidess is not an island, he has a wife and four children and poverty is the story of this family. So we are building a grocery from a scratch and we will stock it up with a starter pack. This will in turn be a family business,” said Namadingo.
For almost a decade, the acoustic duo of Edgar ndi Davis have been performing with Agide. Through their joint shows, the legend found a lifeline for survival and made his dream trip to the US.
In 2016, the duo turned into reality Agide’s long-time dream of performing in the US.
Asked if the decision to have him retire was bounced to his cronies, Namadingo said: “Edgar and Davis have been with Gidess for some time and their relationship is more of artists that perform together.
“I was linked to Giddes through Davis as my initial plan was to do a mash-up with him. I didn’t envisage seeing him in abject poverty. His living conditions are very poor.”
Namadingo added that he spoke with Agide about his condition and then he also spoke to FDH Bank about it. Following those talks, that is when a decision was