While Ishan Cyapital might seem like an alien to most music fanatics, the dreadlocked young artist pools a legion of fans and enthusiasts in the local dancehall sector where he has etched a name for both his skill and consistent habit of churning out hit after hit.
Unlike its hip-hop genre cousin, dancehall music in Malawi has chocked on its own vomit, unable to sustain a reasonable audience let alone recognition beyond the massive youthful followers.
Dancehall is a sub-genre of the hugely popular reggae music and appeals to a younger audience.
But for Ishan, born Ishan Hassan Jussab, the fact that the music speaks to a particular audience is the reason the genre ought to be celebrated.
“The target audience is the youth, not only the youth of Malawi, but all African youth. To inspire them to bring change and to create awareness in their respective societies through art, music and to encourage them to express themselves,” he tells Society.
According to the artist, reggae has always influenced societies throughout the world.
“We are not the first ones to do this. Dancehall music is just a modern medium we use to get through to the youth,” he says.
Ishan’s music has always been about raising self-awareness among his peers and driving them towards recognising the role they can play in society.
His new song Better Must Come off the album African Way of Life is a testament of this belief.
“The song was written when Malawians were going through many social economic challenges. It is a prayer to keep the youth hopeful on the future and to keep them strong so they can overcome these challenges. Myself and many other youths have been going through these challenges, so I decided to write a song about them,” he says.
Ishan says his drive is to inspire Malawians to come together to make a positive change for the future of the country.
“The vision is to build a better nation and how best we can for our children’s children.”
The artist says the upcoming album has a taste of both reggae, and dancehall.
“With the dominant genre being dancehall, the upcoming album will surely be appealing to the old folk and the young ones too,” he says.
Hailing from Balaka, which is well known for producing some of the greatest musicians in Malawi, Ishan is a reggae/dancehall artist, singer, songwriter and rapper that came on the Malawian music scene in 2007.
Born in a music family with strong influences from his uncle Tackie T and brothers Teebz and Jeelz, Ishan was exposed to music at a very young age, from disk jockeying at family events to performances at school variety talent shows.
With influences from his uncle Tackie T, who is one of the earliest ragga music pioneers in Malawi, Ishan was introduced to Jamaican dancehall music in the likes of Shabba Ranks, Buju Bunton, Sean Paul and Beenie Man from CDs his uncle sent from the UK.
But Ishan does not let his influences override his music as he fuses “dancehall and reggae with a touch of African elements to make beautiful music that touches the soul.”
The 27-year-old’s first recorded song was with well-known music producer and close relative Sean Loc, who is one of the first people to have noticed Ishan’s musical talent from his strong lyrics and unique style of delivery.
“Sean Loc played a major role in my mentorship as we collaborated on multiple songs. He produced a number of my singles from International Gal, In my Zone and Paranoid which featured renowned Rnb singer and songwriter Theo Thompson,” he explains.
After dominating the dancehall scene from 2010 to 2012, Ishan went through a period of reinvention in a bid to make his sound was more unique and more mature.
Linking up with Martin Anjelz, the producer for Ishan’s famous chart-topping track Hey Gal, he never looked back from then.
In 2016, These Days was released, a conscious reggae song that is evidence of Ishan’s versatility, the way he takes on the riddim is so natural that you start to forget he is a boy from Balaka. It’s like listening to a mixture of Sean Paul and Junior Gong in one artist.
Ishan is currently preparing to release his debut album under Di Elite Music, a record company founded by Ishan and his two brothers Teebz and Jeelz in collaboration with record producer Desert Eagle.
His previous mixtapes and albums include Regime Mixtape (2010), Nyatwa (2011), Hey Gal (2014), These Days (2016), Abandoned Ship (2017) and One Time (2018).
Ishan has performed at the 2010 Lake of Stars festival, Power 101’s 16th anniversary in 2014, Cape Maclear Triathlon in 2016, the 2017 Sound and Light Festival and the 2019 Tumaini Festival among others.