From time immemorial, the humankind has heard and witnessed exceptional and agile guitarists making the guitar talk, cry and sing. In all such display, it is not common that players of instruments would melt into their instrument and become one.
And yet, this is the valuable experience that Erik Paliani, Malawi’s Afro Jazz maestro export to South Africa, left with the patrons that came to Game Stores basement parking area Urban Music Party (UMP) event in Blantyre.
Just around 11pm the director of ceremonies announced that having watched models display different designs, performances from Malaulo it was time to watch the main performer for the night—Erik Paliani.
Paliani, whose successful music exploits in foreign countries is sacrosanct and a must attend show, would ordinarily have been shocked with the lukewarm response from the patrons. It was never to be as he loves the art of doing music more than he loves the attention or lack of it that it draws.
The darkly lit stage where he was set to perform with a drum set and a guitar never offered enough hope to people who have seen larger than life band equipment and, therefore, Paliani being what he has become was expected to come with presence and intimidation in his wake.
The quarter filled venue did not show much interest. You never can tell whether it was out of lackadaisical attitude Blantyre patrons are characterised with or that the urban audience should have been entertained with a performer of their ilk.
Meanwhile, Erik was also throwing a tantrum. How he wanted his guitar to be connected and amplified was not what he was getting. He was now making do with what was available and the feeling was that the worst was about to happen.
The handful of patrons that had their attention still grabbed by what was happening on stage were now more than interested to see what the two musical instruments could do.
He went straight to the album Chitukutuku with the track Tingo Tiya perhaps signifying the fact that he was back in Blantyre where he cut his musical teeth and lived a good part of his life.
After playing the first and welcoming track that broke the ice, he introduced the other member of his act.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is our drummer and his name is Lightone Chisuse,” said Paliani.
Oblivious to the reception of the music by the few patrons, the duo got down to business and Paliani strummed the guitar while Chisuse’s foot never stopped pounding the drum as his dexterous hands made the cymbals chime.
One of the patrons, Mary Likutcha, said she was enjoying Paliani’s music though she was not familier with it.
“I have not been exposed to his music but he is good,” she said.
Nevertheless, Paliani kept on churning out music from his Chitukutuku, album which in 2011 earned him nomination for a South African Music Award (Sama).
Most of the patrons to the UMP fashion night event are obviously into urban music and, therefore, were strangers to Paliani’s act.
Seeing that the patrons were not interested to enjoy Paliani’s musical styles and influences, he turned to self and enjoyed the music.
One of the 2014 editions of the internationally acclaimed The Orbit described Paliani as the most revered and accomplished producer, songwriter and guitarist working in South Africa and yet at the Game Stores underground parking lot, most patrons failed to notice.
Paliani kept on playing the Afro-Jazz through tracks such as Blantyre Boma, Dr. Nico, Ndege, and Toto Ife among others. He created a world of his own where the guitar sounded as if he was in it and the guitar was in him.
He melted into his guitar and it now mattered less that the UMP organisers had made a mismatch by inviting Paliani to an event that take pleasure and promote urban music. He conquered by defying the odds.
Speaking to the media at the end of the event, UMP director Ken Limamwa said they were satisfied with Paliani’s performance.
“It has been a great night, sucessful and we are happy with the designs displayed, the music played and the attendance,” said Limamwa. n