Music is a powerful tool for social change. It is even more powerful when done by respected and celebrated musicians.
In Malawi, the Black Missionaries Band is, arguably, the most famous band as it attracts huge patronage to its shows.
But the band’s repeated reference to chamba smoking during their shows has made some patrons wonder if they endorse use of the illegal stimulant.
For instance, a collaborative Mwala Okanidwa seems to talk about chamba the drug but the group say they talk of chamba the chichewa term for music genre.
The song, with Chizondi and Anjiru Fumulani on vocals, usually marks the climax of the band’s live performances.
The two, in the thick of their act, say the Black Missionaries love chamba without further explanation.
The band then extends the song to a rendition of a childhood song titled Kodi Nonse Mwasamba?
Says the song: “Kodi nonse mwasuta? Ife tasuta, aphunzitsi bwerani muzawone nokha, ngati mupeze wina asanasute muyenera kunchosa samvera lamulo.” [Have you all smoked? We have all smoked. Come teacher and see for yourself. If you discover that one of us has not smoked remove them; they are breaking the law]
The question, thus remains: Is the Black Missionaries not endorsing chamba smoking to the audience, including the youth who hold the reggae outfit in high regard?
In an interview after a performance in Mzuzu on Saturday, Anjiru disputed assertions that the band is encouraging chamba smoking.
“For us, we sing to entertain people. It’s not that we are encouraging chamba smoking. I don’t think people will start smoking because of our song. These are personal choices,” he said.
Anjiru said chamba is illegal in the country and those found in possession need to be prosecuted.
“The police at the event ought to do their job if they see people breaking the law. We are bound by law. So, anyone found in possession of chamba ought to face the law,” he said.
Interestingly, Lucius Banda, who performed during the same event dubbed Night of the Giants, spoke strongly against public smoking.
Banda paused his performance for a minute after noticing some fans smoking chamba near the stage.
He said: “Please don’t smoke here. We need oxygen to sing.”
Other artists who performed include Anthony Makondetsa, Sam Smacks, Ril B, Nepman and Banda’s son, Johnny.