Sunday marks another chapter in Malawi musician MacDonald Mlaka Maliroâ€™s music career. The artist, who came into the limelight with Dzanja Lalemba in 1999, is launching his debut gospel album, after nine albums in secular circles.
The one-time Zembani Band member, who quit to form his own Maloto Vibrations, now talks and sings how mighty God has been, and he promises a paradigm shift on the Malawi gospel scene after the launch at Robinâ€™s Park in Blantyre.
Listening to some of the songs in the 10-track Hosanna, you certainly know things have changed, and Mlakaâ€™s eyes are focused on the time beyond tomorrow.
Take for instance the song Ndisiye, in which the persona tells Satan to let go:
Ndisiye dyabulosi, satana, mwana wanjoka
Tsopano dziwa ndine mwana wa Mulungu
Unandikopa kale ndi zopanda pake
Ndinkamwa mowa, komanso kusuta
Tsopano ndazindikira zonse nâ€™zachabe
Zintchito zako ndazisiya ndine born again
The song goes in part. One cannot help but think of Mlakaâ€™s past, which was at times dotted with negative moral assertions.
â€˜Gospel music now comes naturallyâ€™
For him, gospel music has always been with him, although previously he was only doing it to entertain and educate others.
â€œIt comes naturally to me. But now I want to sing it from deep down my heart. In the past, I was singing about stories from the Bible because I knew them. I have been involved in preaching these days, and so I feel as a servant, I must spread Godâ€™s word through music as well,â€ said Mlaka, who goes to the Crosslife Church.
Recorded at producer Ralph Chingâ€™ambaâ€™s Ralph Records and Collen Aliâ€™s True Tones, the album cuts across several issues affecting Christian lives today. These are songs like Ndinu Woyera, Sindilora, Njoka ya Mkuwa, Msamaliya and Hossana.
The title track, Hossana, is about praising God for lighting the way, the very essence of his being.
Other songs in the album are Kunja Kwada, Dalira Yesu, Landitsani Moyo and Chala Cha Mulungu. Chala Cha Mulungu is an artistically brewed tune, bringing images of Biblical Joseph into a contemporary setting.
Said Mlaka: â€œIt is a story of how God canâ€™t let us down, no matter how hard people try to throw spanners in the works. When God says I am not done with you yet, He means just that. Even though Josephâ€™s brothers wanted to kill him for his dreams, God straightened his path and he ended up ruling them in a foreign land.â€
â€˜Singers must be originalâ€™
But how different is his music going to be, in a world where gospel music has suffered an inferiority complex after artists have copied beats and messages from other countries? Mlaka said gospel artists should not limit themselves by copying foreign elements to music.
That, he observed, can haunt the Malawi gospel music abroad.
â€œImagine there was a gospel festival and a Malawian who copies Rabecca Malope is asked to perform while Malope is there. What would our artist do?â€ wondered Mlaka, a husband to parliamentarian Bernadetta.
According to the artist, Malawi has deeply rooted music talent which should not be obscured by the mediocrity of copying foreign acts.
The launch will see in performance Ethel Kamwendo-Banda, who also quit secular music for gospel years back. Also on the line-up is Allan Chirwa, Ndirande Anglican Voices, Limbani Simenti and Lucky Hambeyani.
For Mlaka, gospel music is not just about money, but serving God. â€œIf money comes your way as a gospel artist, thank God who has brought to reality his promise when He said seek you first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you,â€ said Mlaka.
Mlaka began his music career in various Anglican church choirs from his home district, Mangochi. He had a stint as keyboardist for Zembani Band before he engaged his own gear with Maloto Vibrations.