The coming in of the new millennium ushered a new music genre in Malawi. Malawi’s dancehall owes its origins to Jamaica, the home of this genre and reggae music in the world.
Local artists continue to sing their own version of the dancehall and the country has witnessed a rise of Malawi dancehall to its present form.
Even with the demise of some of the genre’s finest ambassadors in Vic Marley and Mafunyeta, dancehall has survived it as the likes of King Chambiecco and Nepman, among other artists, have taken over.
While for some, the best is yet to come, fans have been treated to different talents along the way and some hits have been made. A number of artists stormed the charts with the songs and they made an impact on the music scene. Currently, Nepman is the man on the lips of many and it is not surprising that he is enjoying a growing popularity.
He is famously known for his hit Na Lero, an anthem among the younger generation. But some in the old generation have also fallen in love with the song in which the artist blends traditional genres with dancehall music as well as a unique rapping and singing style.
“I have been in the Malawi music circles for a long time, long enough to know and understand the terrain. I formally started music in 1992 with the Young Generation Band,” said Nepman in an interview.
Formed in the early 1980s, the band is among the pacesetters of African-roots-reggae in Malawi. Their lyrics spoke to the people of Malawi and arguably the continent as a whole.
Surprisingly as it may sound, Nepman was instrumental in producing Afiti Opemphera, a hit that became a darling to many in the country.
“I performed with the band for years. I went into the studios for the first time in 1999 where we recorded the hits Afiti Opemphera and Jane,” he recalls.
That was the beginning of his journey as a recording artist as, in the next years, he released an album.
Said the artist, born Neppier Longwe: “I released my first solo album Kuvuma in 2004. The album, recorded at Lo Budget records by GD, had the famous hit Malipe Dance.”
After he failed to make it big, Nepman soldiered on and did a number of successful collaborations that catapulted him to his current success.
“I did Nanyoni Wanga, which unfortunately, was not successful. I went on to do Atelala with Diwa Khwiliro in 2008 for which we shot a video with Chipililo Khonje. It got a good response. I moved on with collaborations and I did Chilawe Changachi with Black Nina. More recently, I did Chilibe Season with Diktator and Piksy and then Kadona Aka with Chipililo Mwamcheka. As a solo artist, I came back in 2014 with the hit Na Lero,” he stated.
Both young and the old cannot resist the tune.
Moving forward, Nepman drops his second single before the end of the year. He has roped in the services of a number of award-winning artists.
“It is titled Kuzambwe and the album will have 12 songs. 10 songs are already done and I am working on the remaining two with South African-based Malawian rapper Zovado. I have also featured the big man Lucius Banda, Piksy and my manager Kabolombwe,” he explained.
The album has been recorded at four different studios—Pro Pee, Lo Budget, Step Up and Don Foxy.
“It has spiritual, love and togetherness songs. It promises to be big and I urge Malawians to be on the lookout,” he said.
Music is very much loved by the majority in Malawi. It is part of our culture and one always hears music playing in the streets, whether at sad or happy events, among others. Simply put, music imbeds on people’s daily life weaving its beauty and emotions through our thoughts, activities and memories.
Of late, there is sudden increase among the young crop of musicians in the country with songs full of lyrics that are sexually suggestive, explicit or profane, though indirectly.
Nepman’s Na Lero is one of the many songs that has undergone public scrutiny and some fans feel are derogatory in nature. Listening intently, the interpretation of the messages is either sexually suggestive or profane.
But the artist does not entirely blame the artists for the trend, saying people are tired of being feasting on sad songs.
“It’s a change from what Malawian musicians have been known for; doing music full of sad messages as if there is nothing good happening around. We are now doing music that makes people laugh.
“Of course, I must agree that some songs are sexually suggestive although it depends on how people interpret the meaning. However, there is need for toning down for the sake of children in this country,” he said in an earlier interview.
He defends his position, saying people enjoy the music that he and other artists such as Tsika by Sonye and Ndidzakukwatira by Gibo Lantosi, for example, despite receiving some condemnations.
“Malawians are hypoctrites, in their houses they listen and watch things which they do not want the outside to know. Outside their homes, they start questioning the very same thing they are enjoying at home. We are just being real using music as a medium, that’s all.
“No matter how hard we can try, we cannot impress everybody with our music. We therefore move forward by focusing on the positive side. It would be good if we could manage to convince all music lovers to be with us, but it is not possible,” he said.