Witchcraft and superstition are core parts of most Malawians. However, it impacts on people in different degrees. Some are struggling to have them out of them, some entirely dismiss them, and for some, they control their life. They are a matter of life and death to them. They get threatened by a man they think is a wizard, for example, they will get depressed and expect some magic powers to reach to them and inflict pain on them.
Well, you cannot entirely avoid this. It will take centuries before an entire Malawian population starts seeing the vanity in the belief that there are such magical or dark powers. They are not possessed by some people and can be acted on others. But when that day comes, it will be too late in some way. We will be looking back and regret why we allowed this belief to kill the hope of our music.
Fikisa, a Mangochi based group, will be our point of reflection then. The group, which sensationally took Malawi by mixing the traditional Yao beats with the modern mainstream instruments, disbanded two years ago after members accused each other of being wizards. Actually, they had a song titled ‘Kaduka’ (Jealousy), which talked of people killing each other using black magic because of jealousy. The song says being jealousy of someone is dangerous. This type of message was not special of them. There are thousands of songs in Malawi having that similar kind of message. But the thing with art is that the artist sometimes only portrays what he or she sees in the society even though they may not be firm believers in it. But with the group, Fikisa, it actually came from what the members were experiencing inside it.
It came with their own brand of music. The traditional Yao touch had been sung among the Yaos themselves for over a century and a half, but it was not represented in the mainstream music industry compared to the Sena, Chewa or Ngoni traditional beats. Fikisa filled that gap with their music and instantly went from being unknown to the top. Their first song, ‘Akamwire’ did the magic of preparing their words to the hearts of people. It was followed by other game changing songs like ‘Wazililira Wekha’ and ‘Kuwecheta’. The heavy and fast beat of the songs made them be loved in the clubs and other public gatherings.
For music lovers, after years of failing to have a unique music from Malawi to export beyond our borders, Fikisa gave an answer to that. It gave people some pride that Malawi can also come up with its own music apart from copying from South Africa and Nigeria. But just as they quickly came to the top, they went down the same way. In an instant, the group vanished after breaking up. Maybe the members took their music and achievements for nothing. Someone should have told them that it was ground breaking and Malawians were ready to rally behind them to sell their beat abroad. But witchcraft killed all that hope and took us back to the jungle, to search the Malawian beat we are missing in the puzzle. Had the three Fikisa members taken it serious, and united as group, still performing as good as they were, the two years they have been out of the scene could have proved vital for them and our music. They could have been somewhere higher than they could have imagined.
But oh, witchcraft!
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.