Call it afro-inflected or rock-inspired jazz. Both of these descriptions are basically what South Africa-based Eric Paliani dished out on Saturday night at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.
For a solid three hours, the dreadlocked star, playing his lead guitar, alongside Daniel Sibale expertly playing the saxophone and JJ Munthali on bass guitar, teased the anxious patrons with a sweet combination of instrumentation.
When they went slow in R ‘n’ B-like tone, the mood was as calm as the skies under which the open-air show was being performed. However, the heavy drumming and bass guitar sweetened by the lead guitar and saxophone attracted rounds of applause from the patrons, who, by jazz popularity standards in Malawi, came in large numbers.
In between the show, there was a brief appearance by Penelope Mhango, a singer from Capital City Baptist Church.
She is new on the jazz scene but her eight-minute display did not disappoint. With her metallic voice, she sang with passion and emotions so much that the sense of emptiness filled the sphere when she left the stage amid loud cheers.
Speaking after the show, Paliani said: “It has been 20 years since I started my career. I thank the fans for their support.”
It has been a long journey but the jazz star’s performance, though, at some stages, evoked shades of his earliest, it was better; a case of the proverbial saying that wine gets better with time.
Paliani said he was impressed with the turnout, saying it was a sign that jazz was gaining recognition.
“It was great to perform in my country again. The crowd was impressive. This is exactly what we want; Malawians embracing jazz,” he said.
One of the patrons, Henry Nuka, said he was impressed with the performance.
“It is the first time for me to attend a jazz show. But I am so impressed. This was pure art because the guys made the instruments do the singing as there were only a few songs where Erik sang with his voice,” he said.
Q Malewezi, creative manager for Qoncept Creative, promoters of the show admitted that publicising a jazz show was not easy.
“I am pleased with the attendance. As you are aware, jazz is not famous in the country and holding a show is a gamble,” he said.