Sam Shaba is not a popular artist. His name might even sound new, but to those who have sampled his music from his new album Kukaya, it is clear that the future of music is here.
With a mixture of Tumbuka, English and Chichewa, Shaba is bringing to the music scene a clean sound of carefully selected instruments that blend well with his melodious voice which he projects without any iota of struggle.
The track Goodbye is a simple concept song about a man who is outside Malawi and is happy to go back home where he will see his relatives.
He pictures how the plane carrying him will touch down to allow him see his parents and, of course, his grandmother’s grave.
“As someone who grew up in the village, I have fond memories of my home. This is my inspiration for the title Kukaya. I have managed to depict my village culture and tradition in this album,” said Shaba.
In part the song goes: “Goodbye tawera
Tazamuwonana [we shall meet]
Tamkwela ndege [we are going to board a plane]
Tikuruta kukaya uko [we are going home yonder]
Tamuwona amama [We will meet mum]
Amama wakaphike kachigwada [Mum will prepare chigwada for us]
Tamuwona badada [We will meet dad]
Wamukutiwuska namulenji [He will wake us up early in the morning]
Tiyeni mukawone malaro [Let’s go visit the grave yard]
Apo babuya winu wagona [You need to see where your grandmother was laid to rest]
Kukaya uko tiri munthowa [Hello home, we are on our way]
Tipokelereni he [Welcome us ]”
The artist said his sound is inspired by vimbuza, a traditional dance performed in many parts of the Northern Region.
“I grew up particularly playing vimbuza drums as a young boy and those rhythms are what make a big part of my music and expressions,” said Shaba.
On the use of Tumbuka in his songs, Shaba said it is a language he is most comfortable with.
“I am very comfortable singing in tumbuka than any other language because it brings out the true me. My head hears ingoma music lines, vimbuza melodies. So, even if I sing in other languages, I still echo those traditional tones,” he said.
The 15-track album has songs such as Dingire, Goodbye, Waniziyamo, Gomezga, Achimwene, Giyani, Odi Odi, Tamukumana, Zikomo, Africa, Tabeya, Yamkwimba Mtuwa, Mwanawe and Chalo.
Sampling Waniziyamo, one can actually feel the tradition in it from the first chord.
Literally translated as ‘you have put me in trouble’, the song is about a man who proposes to a beautiful woman but later changes his behaviour, making the woman lose her spark.
The man further infects the wife with a sexually-transmitted disease, putting her life in even more trouble than before.
“So, the wife is complaining through the song just like many women in the village do pa mtondo when they have grievances,” said Shaba.
The other song that stands out in the album is Odi Odi. It is a song about common occurrences in our villages where neighbours ask for help when attacked by thieves.
In Achimwene, Shaba talks about a man who leaves his village and goes to South Africa while his children are young.
As the children grew, they started asking questions about his whereabouts.
“In the song, the younger brother writes a letter to the man to come back and asks him when he coming back home,” said Shaba.
Dingire is a song of advice.
“In the song, parents are advising their daughter to take care of herself,” said the artist.
The album has a fusion of vimbuza, ingoma and African jazz. The sound is as clean as a whistle.
Shaba said he was proud of the project as it brings out the African in him.
He said: “In this album, I have talked about the importance of love among us as Africans. Africa is mostly divided [based on where] someone comes from. We ought to appreciate our differences, appreciate others for who they are and find the best way that would bring us together in the beauty of our diversity.”
Commenting on the album, music critic, John Mbewe said Shaba’s approach is unique.
“He has set his own path and does not seem to try to be someone else. He is going to be a great artist in his own right,” he said.
Shaba is set to launch his album on October 8 at Havilah Park in Area 47 in Lilongwe.
He will be supported by Joram Nyirongo and Keturah.