In 2013, The Black Missionaries’ journey from Kuimba 8 to their latest album Kuimba 9 must have been a bumpy one. With the reggae outfit from Chileka touring South Africa and doing pre-launch and launch shows all across the country spreading the news about their upcoming album. Finally Kuimba 9 was released on 2nd june at Lilongwe golf club just a few months after one of their own Anthony Makondetsa released his Fuko Lokondedwa album. Things have not been particularly rosy for the Black Missionaries in the past years, yet still in all that, they have managed to make 9 top-selling albums in the mist of losing friends and family from Matafale RIP to lead singer Angiru’s older brother Musamude Fumulani RIP.
Recorded and produced at Ralph Records by Ralph Ching’amba; Peter Amidu (Bass Guitar), Angiru Fumulani (Vocals), Chizondi Fumulani (Keyboards) and the Chakonda brothers (Guitar & Percussion) are the longest serving members of the Black Missionaries, the Rastafarian reggae music band locally known around Malawi as “Ma Black” with Donald Custom doing the backing vocals. While some journalists and bloggers may want to say that the Black Missionaries are stuck in the past, we feel it’s actually the opposite. The collection of the Black Missionaries albums from Kuimba 1 to Kuimba 9 is a journey and we are all on it. Subsequently, continuing with the message presented in Kuimba 8 by making a reference to the days of Noah (from the Bible) in the song Bambo Nowa. We see in Kuimba 9 the missionaries aka “Ma Blacks” carry on their Gospel by singing that, albeit implicitly, like the days of Noah people are still lost in sin despite God’s grace and the bible being the testimony of his words. In Angochimwirabe, the voice of Anjiru Fumulani leads to sing: ‘Angochimwirabe/m’banda kucha wadza/ona nthanda yatuluka/zipata zakumwamba zosatseka/bwanji osangolapa? / Ndilapabe’.
Judgement day, talk of the last days’ message; It is what it is in Angochimwirabe, a hit single on the radio and people love it at the shows. The beat is groovy and even though it has such a serious message, you can’t help it but tap your feet or nod your head when you hear the drum base kick-in at the beginning of the song. It is the same message in Angochimwirabe that is introduced early in the album on song #2, Zonse n’chabe. The song preaches the same message of the last days when all that is left in the world is smoke and sand. In the chorus, the band bursts: ‘Zonse n’chabe/sagula moyo/zonse n’chabe/Nangula Yekha’. It’s no wonder this is the number two song on the album as the words directly tackle some of the serious problems the world is facing today with lyrics like ‘ndalama yasowa/moyo ukuwawa/nthawi ndi nyengo/zizindikiro/akubwera Yesu’.
To show their submission before the coming of the Messiah, Black Missionaries Kuimba 9 takes into the moments of fellowship through the song Higher. Done in a perfect Nyabhinghi instrumentation and being one of the 3 English songs in the album it is bound to captivate anyone to dig deep and fall back in love with their spiritual soul. Of course, one needs a very keen ear to hear the message in the song besides the ‘Higher/Higher’ that can be easily heard above it.
For the real die-hard Black Missionaries fans, the true listenership of the band; For those people who have followed the Chileka outfit’s love journey then this album is able to transfer you to the shores of joy and true love. If you liked the first song that was put on radio and online for the Kuimba 9 CD promo and is fair to say the one song that dominated the Malawi Music Top 20 Charts as #1 for 17 straight weeks declaring itself a hit single Bwenzi langa, you will also like track number 7 Tabwera; which does not only have a beautiful message but a nice reggae touch to it as well, that is sure to make you feel good about that special someone in your life. The voice of Anjiru does nothing but add the sensation the song needs for the lovers of the world. Undoubtedly one of the most quoted lines in the song Tabwera is the one you can hear at the end of the last chorus saying: ‘Ngati sundikonda azandikonde ndaninso? Which when translated to English meansif you don’t love me, then who is going to love me?
Portraying a betrayed lover Anjiru sings this year’s jealous-lovers-theme-song titled Wansanje. This is one track with the potential of appealing to the lives of a lot people only if you take time to understand the depth of the wisdom buried in the song more especially in the lines: ‘Honey ndakuona ndiwe wansanje / uli ndi moyo ozikonda / Nsanje mesa nanga ndi maziko a chikondi / Usandisiye / Usazanene kuti sindimakukonda iweyo / Usazanene /Usamanene/ Usazanenenso’.
As in the previous albums, The Black Missionaries cannot stay away from sharing life’s little jewels that they have learnt along the way in their own personal lives, giving advice to humanity on how to relate to each other is the song Absolom in which the words advise: ‘ukadzichepetsa ndithu Mulungu azakukweza…pali zambiri mu moyo zomwe timaphunzira/nthawi zambiri timangokhala odalirana/kuti ziyende pafunika nzeru/nzeru zipambana zonse’. Priceless advice that is, one can boast is exclusive to Kuimba 9 just as it is with the uplifting and encouraging music incorporated in the Internationally targeted I’m not a failure which is track #4 in the Kuimba 9 album.
I’m not a failure is available in the album in two versions one real and one acoustic, The song itself is a variation from the traditional reggae tunes that you would expect from the Black Missionaries’ library, giving a break to the usual more-fire attitude, give or take. The song gives the listener not only the feel of how best the band can handle Rhythm & Blues, but also it contains the right instruments to transports one from the present, to the past, and remind you of the journey each one of us has taken in life to get to where you are now. It is a song of which its message should be printed on T-Shirts, tattooed on the backs of gladiators, branded on the shirts of the bwanas in the office and sang by a Ndirande housewife while she waits for her boyfriend/husband to come home from a hard day’s job. The message easily resonates well with the majority of the people regardless if you are Malawian or not as its words go: ‘I’m not a failure/cause I’m ruling/musically/I’m ruling/spiritually’.
If you liked Anthony Makondetsa’s track called “Podzatitenga” in his new album Fuko Lokondedwa, then chances are that you will also love track number 5 Kwawo, which sends a slightly similar message ‘Kwawo/Kwawo tikafikeko’ and then adds: ‘Kuchoka mu Iguputo/kudzera Yerusalemu/Kukafikanso ku Yeriko/Ayi kwawo ndakafikako’. On the thin line of their songs in relation to Mr Cool aka Anthony Makondetsa, Kuimba 9’s Okondedwa is yet another track that complements well to Mtengo wanga in Anthony’s album – both being tributes to their fallen star, Enock Robert Fumulani whom they confess was a devastating time for them when he died. In respect to his Dad Anjiru writes; ‘Pitani okondedwa/sindingathe kukamba zambiri za inuyo/pitani okondedwa/mpaka tsiku lamdzukiro pomwe tidzakumanenso’. Okondedwa is a great song for all those going through the grief of losing a loved one or feeling disadvantaged. The Black Missionaries utilises this song to showcase the power of their music and how it can be used to console a soul going through hardship. Even in times of loss, the song offers hope of the afterlife and hope for the family left behind, the African continent and the world. If we had to mention anything ambit about the album so far it would be that maybe the positioning of this song would have been better at the end of the album to relay the message in the listeners’ ears a bit better, but as this review starts this is 2013 and there should be no reason you can’t skip a song and go back to it on an album while listening to it, when you feel you need it.
‘Soon we’ll overcome these troubles / You’ve got to unite African leaders’ … ‘We can make Africa a paradise/When we chant down wickedness… Africa will never be the same/We declare Africa for africans’ It seems it’s almost impossible to find a reggae album these days without a song dedicated to Africa and Kuimba 9 is no different. Above are the lyrics coming from a song on Kuimba 9, number 11 titled Mama Africa.Somewhere, someplace while listening to this album it becomes apparent that the men from Singano village, Chileka knew that their music is not just a mission, it is a war that has to be won and Africa is not just a continent, it’s our home. To be a legend you make sacrifices, thus track number 9, in the Kuimba 9 album, Nkhondo translated from Chichewa as “war” can be described somehow as the prophecy of this same ideal as the lines go: ‘Sanena iwo/zabwino ukali moyo/ Koma ukamwalira/anali mwamuna uja/ Ndikapita mwana wanga/pomwe azandiyamike/ Ati ndinali ndi luso/ Kukhala satero’
To summaries The Black Missionaries 9th edition to the Kuimba legacy, it’s evident that this CD is not for the lame hearted or the people that haven’t been through life’s hardships. This music is for winners, the people that got dealt the cards but still managed to pull out the joker. If this was America this would be the soundtrack to Marvel’s Batman movies. Somehow lyrics like any other but yet when one reads the criticism levelled against the group, one thing emerges Black Missionaries is the best-selling band in Malawi and they make mighty awesome reggae music that not one Malawian can deny. The story tells all who were doubting “Ma Black” that the men know what they are doing and they even know what their fans want from them next – when they take on their final journey. They want no hypocrisy. Kuimba 9 is a collector item, for old and new fans, even for those who are just discovering the band. While the band has recently disclosed in the news that they are going on a world tour from July to September whereby they have live shows lined up in Botswana (13-14 July), Ireland (17 August), United Kingdom, South Africa ( Durban & Joburg), Zimbabwe and Zambia of which dates are still to be announced. The Blacks understand that their music is best served live and this is only a way fans that do not live in Malawi can see their favourite band do what they do best. One can’t help but believe that God-willing Kuimba 10 is on the way.
The views expressed in this article are those of Malawi Music staff and professional music reviewers, we still encourage you to buy the album and make up your own mind. You can purchase the album on www.malawi-music.com or by clicking here. #MoreFire #MaBlacks