For most musicians, going silent either means a dry spell for new ideas or a moment for striving to uphold the hype set by the prior productions.
If we press the refresher button and look back at musician Patience Namadingo’s music journey, he is among the artists whom you can mistakenly think are utterly gone, but if history represents reality, he belongs to the latter faction.
It all began when he was just an ordinary artist. He would completely go underground, but he would surface with a hit.
Call him courageous or ambitious, but that is what defines his journey. For him, music is a calling, but unlike many artists, Namadingo has no background in music.
“I had not performed in a choir until after I released some songs. And I have never been in a music class,” Namadingo unpacks his story. “My success is a product of trusting myself and hard work.”
The beginning is always hard, but for Namadingo, it was more than frustrating.
Without any professional knowledge, he acquired the courage to record his first album in 2007. Only his mother supported the idea and did backing vocals on some of the songs.
Titled Gosheni, the 10-track album—which has songs such as AnaimitsaNamondwe and Pemphero Langa—was recorded and produced at Have Faith Studios in Lilongwe.
The success of any music is measured by the support it gets upon its release. Gosheni tanked on the market. Even the album launch show at Sheaffer Conference Hall in Lilongwe was a huge disappointment, with only 27 patrons attending—all of whom were his friends.
“I was frustrated and had the urge to quit the career. Even my parents encouraged me to focus on school,” he recalls.
But sometimes glory awaits those who are patient. In 2009, his chances to continue with studies at diploma level after a Certificate in Arts and Humanities at University of South Africa (Unisa) became slim due to lack of finances. It marked his turning point.
Namadingo is passionate about football, and as a member of Msonkhamanja CCAP in Lilongwe, he used to spend a lot time at the church’s premises where he played the game. It was around this time, he says, that trouble brewed in the church. Some members had conspired to sack the pastor on grounds of administrative and financial mismanagement.
The incident awakened a sense of purpose in him to compose a song of peace and harmony while calling for unity among Christians. The song was Mtendere, a hit that established Namadingo as a musician of note.
The song achieved beyond his wild expectations. He says he released two more singles, Mbiri and Tili ndi Yesu, to test the waters further and the response “was just overwhelming”.
Tili ndi Yesu album, which he recorded at Eclipse Studios in Lilongwe, realised over K6 million. At the age of 20, Namadingo was driving his own car. His life had just begun. Or so most thought!
Namadingo then went into hibernation for about five years, during which almost everyone thought he had been afflicted by same old story of Malawian musicians who come and go like the wind. It was during the same period that he also lost his contract with Nde’feyo Entertainment, with whom he had recorded Mfumu Kale, another household hit.
But Namadingo is back. His Lero album has stamped a statement—he is in a world of his own. Msati Mseke, a hit off the album, is being played everywhere like a national anthem.
But what secret does Namadingo’s success hold?
“After Tili ndi Yesu, my career was on the edge. I saw it hard to produce an album that would be better than it. But this pressure helped me a lot because it made me to work extra harder. I never got the courage until I appreciated the response after its release. What I did was only to try to be myself, doing my own style and giving Malawians what is Malawian. I am happy that the formula has worked miracles,” explains Namadingo.
Listening to MsatiMseke and other nine songs in the album, one realises the Blantyre-based artist poured his soul into it.
Even the video for Msati Mseke is a classic work of art. It fuses local traditional dances and spellbindingly weaves identities of these cultures about what they represent to God.
In just three days, Msati Mseke achieved around 4 000 downloads on malawimusic.com and the second release, Macheza, seems to be breaking the record in downloads. It was released last Friday and by Monday, it had hit 8 000 downloads.
“This is the direction I am taking and I am not stopping anytime soon until I cross the border to sing not only to Malawians abroad, but everyone,” says Namadingo, who plays a piano.
Music follower and DJ Kenny Klips describes Namadingo’s talent as exceptional, which distinguishes him from other gospel artists as he does inspirational songs that carry real life messages.
“If someone plays one of the gospel songs around on a Tuesday, you may grumble, but look, both Msati Mseke and Mtendere can be played anywhere, any time and accepted. This is his strength and it originates from his skills in script writing and dwelling on real issues. I see him soaring higher than this,” says Kenny Klips.