Since time immemorial, revellers in Malawi have always had places where they go for fun and merry making.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Blantyre was the centre of attention, not because it is the commercial hub of the country, but for its many entertainment joints.
The place in Kanjedza was called Belgium; apparently named after legendary footballer Kennedy Malunga’s stint in Belgium.
And then was a kiosk-cum-bottle store in Chinyonga called Kwa Bwanali.
Then there was Shelter Club close to Kwacha roundabout, a stone’s throw from Robin’s Park.
But from around 1983 to 1995, in place to be was Hotel Chisakalime along Tsiranana Avenue in Mudi.
It was a popular music venue that hosted such names as Kalimba and Makasu Bands, Wellington Mkukupha, Kidd Mkandawire, Gas Machine Head, Robert Fumulani and Likhubula River Jazz Band. Love Aquarius was the hotel’s resident band.
In Limbe on the road to Zomba after passing Maselema Roundabout, the place is historical and all fun seekers between these years have fond memories of Hotel Chisaks as evidenced from music promoter-cum-lawyer, Jai Banda’s sentiments.
“Yes, in the olden days, Hotel Chisaks, as it used to be popularly known, used to be hot. It was under Blantyre City Council. During those days that was the place in Blantyre. All who loved entertainment would converge there. The resident band was Love Aquarius, which had members such as Kidd Mkandawire, who is now based in Denmark. The band leader was the late Stampie Kamwendo and on the drums we had Emmanuel Manda.
“I recall when I came from Zimbabwe it was the in-place around 1989 to 1990 up until 1995. It wasn’t that big as it was actually designed for a club. So, once you were there, you could feel the atmosphere of the club with good lights and all that matters,” he explained.
Once in a while, guest artists such as the Griffin Mhango-led Kalimba Band would perform at the venue.
“I vividly remember that Fridays and Saturdays were reserved exclusively for Love Aquarius. Honestly, I would love if it could come back, it was such an amazing place. The place that was trying to come up to what Hotel Chisaks used to be Mibawa Café, which unfortunately has closed shop,” mourned Banda.
Another fun-seeker who used to enjoy the place in the 1990s is MacDonald Kantigah Juma.
“I remember going there more often, especially on weekends because Bright ‘Live Wire’ Nkhata with Makasu Band and Kalimba Band used to play there,” he recollected.
He adds: “If you were not at Chisaks, then you would be at Shelter Club. Shelter had a similar set-up with Chisaks; a bar and the dance floor. They weren’t many places of entertainment that time. Other places were like halls in townships decent places were those and Mount Soche which was more of upper class.
“Hotel Chisaks was more famous because of the live band performances. It was a joint one wouldn’t want to miss over in a weekend. Love Aquarius was very good and the other bands already mentioned were more popular in the 1980s and 1990s and had a huge following.”
Being a very popular night club, all roads led to Chisaks at the weekend. It actually served as a social meeting place. I have fond memories of the once very hot place between 1983 to 1988.
“The place was mainly popular because the resident band Love Aquarius played popular club music of the time as well as new releases by international artists and radio hits. The band featured three times a week—on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Once in a while they also featured some guest artists like Daniel Kachamba, Eddie Manda and Maria Chidzanja-Nkhoma just to mention,” remembers Kidd Mkandawire, one of the artists who performed there.
Hotel Chisaks slowly turned into the artist’s home as he spent his early years of music at the venue, entertaining hordes of people.
“I remember the first time I played there was in 1983. I was still with Kalimba Band then. I found the atmosphere quite electrifying. Fridays were always jam packed. I later joined Love Aquarius in 1984 and Chisaks became my homeground. The other members of the band then were band leader Stampie Kamwendo, Wellington Mkukupha, Lloyd Banda, Emmanuel Manda and Bright Mkanda.
“There might never be another Chisaks night club. But again that was then and times change. I am sure there are other interesting places, may be with a different concept. I personally think it was great and exciting while it lasted. I am very happy to have been part of the experience. We moved on,” explained.
Currently, the club is a madrassah—a school or college, especially attached to a mosque where young men and women study theology.