Old soldiers never die, they just fade away. But veteran musician Paul Banda seems to refuse to either fade or die, musically.
Despite his old age, he has reinvented himself with enthusiasm coupled with an energetic stage work, in the process re-establishing himself as one of the most sought after performers on the local scene.
‘Sir’ Paul took the country’s music industry by storm in the 1990s and, apart from soaring high with live performances alongside Alleluya Band, his music enjoyed massive airplay.
His number one hit Malilime has stood the test of time and is still a fan favourite.
Starting music at the age of 15, Paul has 15 albums under his belt.
Paul initiated the establishment of Alleluya Band on January 19 1978, but the idea of forming the band came from Roman Catholic priest Father Mario Pacific, who was captivated by the performance of a children’s band in which Paul was leader.
Ideally, Alleluya Band was formed to promote and sing about morals of life; issues such as hunger, poverty, HIV and Aids and family issues through a blend of reggae and rhumba rhythms.
Three years ago, Alleluya Band honoured Paul alongside his young brother and protégé Lucius during its 35th anniversary for the role they played in the band and contribution to Malawi’s music industry.
Alleluya Band leader Coss Chiwalo is a longtime Paul admirer who describes his mentor as a music father who inspired most musicians in the country.
“Paul is not only an inspirational figure to members of Alleluya Band, but also other artists from all corners of the country. He has been there for many years. And when we look at him, a lot of thought goes into how we can thank or honour him as founding father of Alleluya Band. He served Alleluya Band with enthusiasm and skill which was later transferred to many artists of today,” said Chiwalo.
Alleluya Band also presented an accolade of long time recognition and excellence to Paul.
However, after serving Alleluya Band, Paul’s music graph dropped when he quit the band in 1994.
In an interview with Chill mid-week, Paul explained: “I left the stage in 1994 because we were being paid peanuts in Alleluya Band. At that time the kwacha was devalued more than 100 percent and commodity prices drastically went up. Our boss was not willing even to know how things were at the market. By the way, while Alleluya Band was the best band and we were making a lot of money, I had to sell utaka at my house to cope with life.
“With the devaluation it was just impossible to live like that. That is why I left and opened a studio and dedicate much of my time in production.”
He said he bounced back into the music limelight in 2008 with the assistance of Lucius.
“My brother was instrumental in helping me to come back. We staged several shows and then later my gospel friends started calling me. The first one was Wycliffe Chimwendo, then Peter Mlangeni, Evance Meleka, Thoko Katimba and others followed suit,” said Paul.
But from 2008, the veteran musician has intensified performances, which is has seen him headlining several events. His schedules are competing with those of his young brother and other young musicians. For example, on Sunday, he will perform at Macheza Alakatuli at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) in Blantyre before heading off to Joe’s Motel in Mchinji the week after. On May 29, he will be at Lsberg and M1 Centre Point. And on June 4, Paul will be at Balaka Stadium before heading to BAT Ground in Blantyre the following day.
Paul’s current manager, Zacharia Jezzman, attributes the high demand for the legendary musician to the long-lasting appeal of his music.
“Paul is still in form and he is on high demand because people still love him. The release of his first ever DVD has also contributed to this because his fans are excited,” said Jezman, adding over 100 copies of Paul’s DVD were sold during the launch in Lilongwe last weekend.