Ishamel Dapalapa Mhango is not new on the Malawi music scene. In 1998, he set up a Mzuzu-based band called Cool Giants which competed in Malawi Gin and Music Crossroads competitions. As a solo artist, he was among the top four in Malawi Pop Idols competition in 2007. He trekked to South Africa in 2008 where he ventured into hospitality business. The artist, who has however, decided to resurrect his music career with a latest EP, scheduled for release this year. He has already released four tracks from the EP and caught up with our Arts Editor EDITH GONDWE to find out more about his musical life.
Q: When did you start your music career?
A: I started my career when I was eight years old in a church choir in Dedza where my parents were working.
Q: How has been your music journey and can you remind Malawians some of your high moments in music?
A: My journey in music has been characterised by mixed fortunes. When we shifted to Mzuzu, I left the church choir with higher expectations when I started participating in the rap and ragga competitions that came together with multiparty politics. That’s when I met DJ Zouzo Ranks and multitalented artist Manase Chisiza who introduced me to a different kind of music.
Q: Tell us your involvement in music competitions in Malawi? How did you fair? Have you played in any groups or you have always been a solo artist? Where are you now and how has it been so far?
A: With the exposure I a t t a i n e d w h e n I participated in the rap and ragga competitions, I collaborated with a few friends to form a band the Cool Giants. That’s when we started live performances and competing in different competitions.
As a solo artist, I competed in the first-ever Malawi Pop Idols competition called the e-wallet. Out of the 25 contestants that participated, I was evicted as number four.
After pop idols, I produced my first album Tidziyamika, of course as a solo artist with Masudi Khonje. I did not stop playing with my band the Cool Giants as I travelled with it to Tanzania for a music festival. While I was producing my second album, our studio equipment got stolen and I was so frustrated that I decided to leave Malawi for South Africa.
In short, I can say my journey’s highlight was when we competed in the Malawi Gin Music Competition between 2001 and 2002 and continuously competed in the Malawi Music Crossroads from 2002 to 2005. I also once performed with Jeff and Langa the members of Boyz Lazy of Mzuzu. In 2008, we started a group called Jobless with Khumbo Hango and Banabas
Q: Your young brother Bingolingo has done great on the music scene. Are you collaborating with his on this project? And how many in your family are into music?
A: My brother Bright Bingolingo Mhango is currently doing studies in Ireland and still doing music. We are still doing music together. I taught Bingolingo everything that he knows, from rap, reggae, ragga and playing guitar and drums. He is cool I like his music.
We are a family of musicians. All the six of us, except our only sister, are musicians.And we are trying to come together as a family to do serious music shows just to show the world the real Dapalapas.
Q: In the absence of music what keeps you busy?
A: I have been working in the hospitality industry and if I am not doing music, this is what I do.
Q: Do you believe you still have something to offer to music lovers?
A: When I arrived in RSA, I met with some friends and we formed a band called Soul Train Band.The members include Raphael Banda(The Jazzman).
As you can see, I am into music and music is into me.
Q: Do you think if you had remained in Malawi your career would have grown tremendously?
A: Yes, if I was in Malawi I was going to be somewhere up there musically because it was going to be music 100 percent. Now I am planning to open a music studio once I return to Malawi. To all the fans, I am ready for the real music once I am back.
Q: How many albums do you have so far, what are the titles and where are you going from here?
A: My first album was Tidziyamika, my second album was Musaweluze while the title for my new EP is Life.
Q: How many songs are in this EP and what are the titles and message? And in what genre has it been produced? A: I have done four songs for the EP and these are Time, Chikondi, Welenga and Ndipo- Ndipo. They have been done in reggae, except one that is in dancehall.