Lilongwe, July 2013: One of the prominent dancehall stars in Malawi had an Asthma attack which ended up taking him to the grave. For those who appreciate Malawi dancehall music as an entity of its own, will agree that Mafunyeta, born Patrick Magalasi, was a man who occupied a large space in the genre. He died young, aged only twenty five. But in the few years he was active on the scene he had made distinct marks through his singing style and music videos. There are three things that went with him to his grave. It will be hard for them to happen again. Only Mafunyeta had the power of keeping them alive and relevant.
First, his inimitable music videos. Mafunyeta had his own kind of video shooting and content. He was not the kind of artist who had a huge budget for them. It was always a simple approach. This can easily be seen from the costumes and the sites in them. He put on usual clothes and not specially made by most urban music videos where artists aim at impressing and improving their image. But it is not that Mafunyeta did not care about his image to his audience. His way of caring was by showing that he never cared. So were his supporting acts in the music videos. They too put on clothes that were not intended to impress. In their simple and usual attires, they simply showed how much ghetto they were with their not-so-professional appearances. But make no mistake, compared to the videos artists feature professional acts, the Mafunyeta videos were much better than them in terms of how he related with the supporting acts. There was a display of happiness and community.
Second, Mafunyeta went away with Area 18. He was a resident of the area and in some of his songs he would mention the neighbourhood. The area is one of the famous neighbourhoods in Lilongwe, for its said beautiful girls. He associated himself with his place of residence and it would easily show that he was proud of where he was coming from. But this was not just in his audio lyrics, but even through his music videos. All of them were shot in Area 18. He was not the kind of artist who would budget for transport to the lake or other far way places just to give his videos a new taste. Area 18 was his universe. He would do anything anywhere, but due to his creativity and involvement of the supporting acts, the videos came out with variety of tastes. Representing his area seemed not to be just for him. He had a following from youths in the area as the one who was carrying their area to the rest of Malawi. If you look at all his music videos, as already said above, the supporting acts in them were acting as a community and rallying behind him. By representing their neighbourhood, he was also representing them. Area 18 was trending in the Malawi urban music scene because of Mafunyeta.
Lastly, Warge, one of the main producers for Mafunyeta, is now the shadow of himself. Of course besides him, DI Sley used to frequently produce for him as well. But it has proved that DJ Sley has moved on and is making his name on the scene even without Mafunyeta. Warge is no longer getting famous and relevant compared to when Mafunyeta was alive. He would always shout the “Warge” name in his lyrics if it was produced by him and it took the man into fame. With due respect, Mafunyeta singlehandedly created the Warge people fell in love with. He was in the habit of recognizing his producers in his songs. Warge benefitted a lot from this gesture. But unfortunately, he took both the name and the habit into his grave.
That was the man Mafunyeta and what he went with. He was a special presence in the Malawian music industry with a distinct singing and dancing style. Two years after his death, the world seems to have moved on and slowly forgetting about this great artist. Thank God for Kwame Bandawe, the deputy Mayor for Lilongwe City. When he was contesting for the ward seat as a Councillor in Area 18 during the May 2014 Malawi general elections, he built a bridge and named it the Mafunyeta Bridge. This is a good development, the best reward Area 18 can give back to one of its greatest men.
May Mafunyeta’s soul continue resting in eternal peace. We miss all what he was to the music industry and his society.
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript developer and editor. Email [email protected] articles and opinions for publication.