November 27 2001 marks a time in Malawi music. This was the day reggae music icon Evison Matafale died under controversial circumstances in police custody.
Now, 20 years later, the band he formed Black Missionaries seeks to launch its Kuimba 12 album a day before his remembrance.
Band leader Anjiru Fumulani said in an interview that the timing is just coincidental, but the mission is still on. They launch the 10th album without their founder on November 26 and his memorial takes place the following day in Chileka.
Nonetheless, that is not the news. The prelaunch for the album will be at Motel Paradise in Blantyre this Friday.
“We are happy that the mission is still on. We get mixed reactions on the music, and we take it like that. That is the essence of art. Nonetheless, we are happy that we are still pushing to achieve the dream Matafale had. The mission is still on,” said Anjiru.
The journey, he added, has been a mixed bag, with ups and downs.
The question may be: What has changed when Matafale was setting up the band?
Anjiru believes some of Matafale’s prophetic lyrics are being brought to fruition. For one, he said, the song Wolenga Dzuwa is an example.
He cited some of the lyrics: “Ona dziko lalenguka ndi mazunzo, njala, nthenda, nsanje. Nayenso wolizunza watheratu, akungodikira chilango.”
Anjiru said: “You know, the Covid-19 pandemic brings to light how far this world has come as Satan continues the torment of God’s people. Now he, our tormentor, is even tired, as Matafale sang. Judgement is nigh”
He added that the songs are apt for what the world and the country is going through.
“We spread the message of love and hope. We spread the message of what is happening in our society. We don’t forget those who have gone before us. This time, though, the tribute is not targeting someone particular,” Anjiru said.
Ray Harawa, Ma Blacks manager, says the album will have 12 songs to live up to the Kuimba 12 notion. The songs were produced by Amos Mlolowa under the Active A stall.
Matafale died in hospital while under police custody. But events leading to his death were controversial as he was suspected to have authored a letter against the then president Bakili Muluzi and had vandalized two music distributors’ shops in Limbe for allegedly selling counterfeits of his music.
Two commissions of inquiry, one set up by Muluzi and another by the Malawi Human Rights Commission determined he died of natural causes while in police custody.