It may not be official but the writing is on the wall: the Black Missionaries as we have known them for over a decade have split.
The umbilical cord that tied Takudziwani and Paul Chokani to the Blacks seemed to have been severed permanently after they revived the Wailing Brothers.
Evidence that this uncoupling is irreversible—rather than just a temporary separation—can be found in the fact that the Blacks have replaced Takudziwani with Owen Hulera on lead guitar and Paul with Amos Mlolowa.
In fact, the Chokani brothers did not receive any communication on the Blacks’ recent shows in Dedza and Lilongwe where the two new faces were spotted on the line-up.
The Wailing Brothers paid in kind by not inviting their erstwhile brothers-in-arms to grace their Unfinished Project album launch shows in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
According to The Daily Times, Taku surrendered his fate to the wheels of time, saying: “I can’t say anything, but sometimes action speaks louder. So, let’s wait and see.”
These scenarios have partly put to rest rumours of an impending split in the Chileka-based band founded by the fallen reggae icon Evison Matafale. But for those with a critical eye, it didn’t have to take this far to see the writing on the wall.
It was clear from afar that things were not all rosy in the band that boasts of massive following nationwide.
Firstly, most people have long observed how the Chokani brothers had been reduced as a mere supporting act. Check Black Missionaries’ posters around town or adverts in newspapers. Rarely would you see the Chokani duo on them.
The same can be said about the album covers of the band’s Kuimba series. The media, too, has been brainwashed to associate the Blacks with the trio of Peter Amidu, and Anjiru and Chizondi Fumulani.
Secondly, Unfinished Project is laced subtle references to the Blacks’ leadership.
Take Everything Gonna Be Alright, for example. The title itself is suggestive. So, is the chorus Everything is gonna alright/As everybody has wanted to be alright. This could mean that presently things are not alright.
Another song off the album, Mwatero Ndinu, cryptically leaves it to the public to judge the situation in the Black Missionaries and if at all the Wailing Brothers are the promised band to redeem the nation.
Using the analogy of Jesus Christ who, the song says, was born through the virgin Malawi, Wailing Brothers argue that they have lived amicably with, possibly, the Black Missionaries and yet the public accuse them of rebellion.
These boiling issues invite the question: Who really owns Black Missionaries for some artists to feel sidelined while others enjoy the limelight?
Matafale’s best friend, confidant and manager at the time of his death, Lawrence Chaziya, says Black Missionaries is a family band that no single member can claim ownership of.
“It needs to be noted that even when Matafale was alive, Musamude was the band’s leader. After his death, Anjiru took over. So, as a leader, Anjiru is expected to make decisions on pertinent issues.
“However, I don’t think Anjiru has ever openly fired the two. At the same time, Taku and Paul have not resigned officially. But due to circumstances, it appears so, and the writing is on the wall for all to see.
“As a family that has been together for 15 years or so, they can still come together and discuss the issues. It’s not a serious issue, so it would not need complicated solutions,” he said.
Chaziya said the revival of the Wailing Brothers is a development that gives reggae lovers a wide variety of music.
“The birth of the Wailing Brothers should be the growth of the Black Missionaries. All they need to do is to harmonise the calendar of their shows to avoid clashes,” he said.
Wailing Brothers band manager Chigo Gondwe-Chokani, who is also wife to Taku, says it breaks her heart to notice that some people think that the Black Missionaries is for the Fumulani brothers.
“A lot has been said about how Black Missionaries started and what you guys [journalists] write in media is often wide of the mark. Some media say the founding members are the Fumulani guys and Amidu.
“The reality is that founding members are Evison Matafale, Taku, Paul and another guy who only played with them in Kuimba 2. Anjiru and Musamude were backing vocalists.
“When Evison died, Musamude took over and when he died, Anjiru took over. Amidu joined the band after it was already established.
“Again, Kuimba 1 is not a Black Missionaries album. It’s a Wailing Brothers album. Further to that, the Wailing Brothers was already there when Evison joined the band. They already have four albums to their name and this [Unfinished Project] is actually their fifth one,” she says.
Anjiru agrees with Chaziya that Musamude was the band’s leader even before Matafale died. He, however, said this does not mean that the Fumulani brothers own the band.
“Black Missionaries is an entity that is registered as a group. It is not owned by one person,” said Anjiru.
Without coming out clear on the future of Chokani brothers with the Black Missionaries, Anjiru said the Blacks have roped in new members to continue with the mission Matafale started.
“As far as I know, they [Taku and Paul] have an established band that will require their time to hold shows.
“The Blacks will also continue holding shows as always. But we are all a family, and for sure we will be helping each other when the need arises,” he said. n