Patience pays. Malawians had to wait five months to watch Jamaican reggae singer Luciano perform in the Warm Heart of Africa.
The prevalent red, gold and green Rasta colours in the form of caps, T-shirts, jackets and trousers flooded the venue.
There were sharp guttural chants true to the Nyahbingi movement with a collage of posters, photographs of Haile Sellassie, Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey and colourful Rastafarian flags almost at every corner.
Covered in a cloud of marijuana smoke, reggae music blaring in the background, the fans huddled to praise and dance in the name of Jah. Even those that do not believe in Rastafarianism joined and enjoyed the harmony that lasted for hours into early yesterday morning.
Local artists Lucius Banda, Skeffa Chimoto, Soul Raiders gave their best of the day.
But the man of the moment was obviously the Jamaican reggae music stalwart.
The Luciano merriment started when he gave people a sneak peek of what was on the menu for the night. In the middle of a performance by Born Afrikan, a Malawian reggae artist based in South Africa, Luciano chirped in with a scream of “Muli Bwanji Malawi,” in a twinkling of an eye.
That alone was enough to shake the stadium into uncontrollable cheers with other fans rushing from wherever they were to get a closer look.
But the excitement was short-lived as the artist disappeared backstage only to return after 30 minutes for an exhilarating performance.
While the fans waited with bated breath for his return, Luciano’s comeback was a surprise and a shock.
Dressed in a typical Rastaman’s gear—a gold jumper, red, yellow and green scarf, a military green camouflaged trouser nicely tucked in his boots that hung tightly below the knees, a conical hat, a scepter in his hand, an urn across his belly as a sash and a microphone on the other hand, Luciano stormed the stage one more time, rolling like a lion in Patois lingo.
His energies were simply amazing and irresistible as he danced, jumped and even somersaulted in awe of the audience. His voice ricocheted within the stadium and beyond, sending waves that echoed kilometres away.
Luciano was visibly absorbed in his performance that sparkled with a great deal of vivacity, and exuberance oozed from his cadaver. Yet this was the vigour of a man who turns 51 in October and remains one of the most proficient reggae artists in the world.
He changed the tempo to songs that many of his Malawian fans know and One Way Ticket was the first.
It is and remains one of the reggae music classics whose spirit transcends the genre, and whose lyrical content will surely stand the test of time.
Knocking on Heavens Door and It’s Me Again Jah were next. Close to a decade after their release, the two songs still raised goose bumps and reverberated well with both the young and the old that thronged the venue.
In a move that surprised some, the artist took time to pray for Malawi flood victims.
“Jah be with all those going through tribulations in this country. We pray for more blessings for Malawi, the entire African continent and the world at large,” he partly prayed with a strong fist raised in the air, a symbol that resonated well with the fans as they joined in.
After two more tracks, Luciano took a bow screaming ‘Zikomo Malawi’ as he departed the stage.
But the fans stood still, watching in agony as the artist disappeared into the white tarpaulin at the back stage. The majority did not move an inch, even when MC Kenzo B made it clear that a night to remember with a reggae maestro had come to an end.
Some fans swamped the tent, unknowingly conducting a picket, pleading and begging the Jah Messenger for one last track.
And they got their heart’s desire as the dreadlocked star bounced back on stage.
It was a pleasant surprise to many as scores of revellers, who were heading out, frantically rushed back and hastily filled the empty spaces near the stage.
He performed a medley of Old Time Religion and When The Saints Go Marching, shaking hands with some of his fans who, at this point, defied the barrier that separated them and the stage and were just inches away from the artist. n