It gets far more replays than many will acknowledge publicly. Its story is as laughable as it gets—a tale of hidden talent born in March 1994.
Kuseka kuti heheee mikanda kuti lakata!
From the fervent singing of children in many locations, Nyanes’ song, Mikanda, has passed the major test any song has to before it is declared a hit.
Of course, it does not get as many repeats on air as it enjoys during weddings, engagements, discos, clubbing and other forms of public entertainment.
The dance tune, which has become a prominent mark of both nightlife culture and daylight gatherings in the country, is struggling to get the nod of most radio DJs who think it somewhat tells of sex and nudity.
But to its 23-year-old makers, Mikanda is not really about all that explicit stuff waistline beadwork entail among lovers in the country.
It is just about laughing hard and the height of love, says the singer from Naisi suburb near Matawale Township in Zomba.
“For me, Mikanda is not about sex, but a celebration of true love. When sweethearts are in love, they will laugh at any story they share and they laugh out loud,” he says.
Nyaness, born Charles Yubu on March 20 1994, is a school dropout. He quit Standard Seven at Chikapa Primary as his mother, who brought him up single-handedly, could not afford educational essentials.
In an interview, he explained how he was abandoned by his father at an early age and what growing away from him meant.
“He separated from my mom when I was too young. I didn’t know who he was and how he looked until we reconnected a few years ago, after I had already quit school. He doesn’t do much in my life. For me, life has been hard labour, magobo. I hustle hard every day,” he says.
The so-called hard labour often entails working in the crop fields of better-off neighbours and passing wet cement and mud to builders and bricklayers.
Naturally, the youthful mind, who refuses to be immobilised by self-pity, has embraced music as an escape from sorrows.
“When I am not getting dirty to sustain myself, I will be somewhere singing or thinking about music,” he says.
DJ Moo, the studio artist who fashioned the danceable mganda beats to accompany Mikanda’s divisive song words, tells us “mostly Nyaness talks is about music”.
“Nyaness is a young man who sings for fun and loves to be happy,” he says. “Stop thinking seriously about his song. It wasn’t done by an adult, but a 21-year-old who did not know the track would be famous. We did it for fun and to celebrate love, nothing more.”
But DJ Moo and Nyaness are not just pals and self-taught artists.
They are age mates, except the deejay who made the instrumentals is 11 days older.
Their famous song wasn’t recorded last year. It was released in November 2016, they say.
“Then, I had no studio. I recorded the popular song in my bedroom with just some sketchy equipment and no soundproofing,” says DJ Moo, born Hussein Ng’ombe on March 9 1994.
He remembers spending “just two days”—one recording the vocals and the other experimenting with traditional beats—to complete the danceable tune that will shock and mesmerise listeners in equal measure.
He recalls: “When Nyaness came to record the song two years ago, he was not sure how the instruments would go. He said: ‘Hey, I have a song.’ I listened to his singing and proposed that we fuse it with traditional beats because mikanda [beads] are cultural objects. That’s why we settled for m’ganda which many people in Zomba and other districts in the country enjoy.”
Nyaness corroborated these recollections of his humble beginnings.
“We didn’t do it for fame. I was just trying my luck. It is by sheer luck that people have recognised my talent,” he explained.
Just like that what began as a bedroom experiment has become the most famous number by the beginner with 17 songs and no album.
Before this breakthrough, his peer who recorded the song used to point at Alex Kamonga’s Kulemera Sakakamiza as the best track he handled in his studio cubicles.
Not any longer.
DJ Moo, formerly a session artist at Igwe Studios in the old Capital, rates extroverted Nyaness as his major revelation.
The singer still frequents his pal’s studio which has shifted from the echo-friendly room to a boys’ quarter.
“I am proud of what my friend has achieved. He is probably the greatest music star to emerge from my studio before and after I moved recording props from my parents’ home to a boys quarter on January 1 2017,” he said.
The manhunt for the brains behind Mikanda hit took us to the heart of an emerging urban music hotspot in Zomba, a district which is home to Sakina legendary hitmaker Maurice Maulidi and Chisoni Kumatenda reggae singer Limbani Banda.
The expanding music scene is home to numerous backyard studios that gifted music and dance party enthusiasts Undibelekele Mwana starlet Postnegative two years ago.
Postnegative claims that Nyaness stole and remade bits of his famous song.
The Mikanda star retorts: “Postnegative is my good friend and this is an allegation he once mentioned to me. Of course, his song came out earlier. But this is my moment of fame. I thank my producer DJ Moo for the good job.”
He also clarified the mention of mikanda—the beads women wear in their loins as a sexual stimulant—which some find steamy.
“The song was inspired by the old saying: Chuluke chuluke ngwa njuchi umanena iyo yakuluma. Out of many, every man will always pick a girl or woman he loves most. When that happens, love grows and the two chat and laugh with all their hearts until beads scatter,” he elaborates.
Nyaness has one fear: that his name should not end in catalogues of one-hit wonders.
Explained the artist: “I will keep pushing until the listeners and promoters who hire me start taking me seriously. Currently, I’m not gaining anything from music. I am still struggling, working hard just to get money to record more songs and release an album.”