She died in March, 2016. It is now a year. For those who can recall, Grace Chinga’s death was the first of its kind in Malawi. One of the most famous gospel artists, about to release a highly anticipated album, a loving mother of three children, a healthy person; suddenly, was no more.
It was a hard experience, especially when one remembers the rumors that went around and nearly tarnished her legacy. But she was great enough, even in death, to rise above the petty and claim her position as, probably, the best of all time.
‘Esther’ was her posthumous work. The album is now a year old, enough time to have it placed on where it belongs in Malawi music. It should be noted that timing is important when musicians are realizing their work. The idea is to give the work enough time and space to make its intended purpose on the people.
The last thing musicians want to see is unwanted headlines when they have come up with an effort. It suffocates the work and in the end rendering the whole album unsuccessful. But at times, wrong headlines do boost an album. With ‘Esther’ it was a different story. Her death shifted the attention of people from her work.
Although ‘Esther’ has not made it big, in terms of listenership, compared to her previous ‘Udzayimba Nyimbo’, it does not forfeit the fact that Grace Chinga, once again, came up with an ageless piece of art. She still maintained her trademark poetic lyrics. She even went deeper in ‘Esther’.
The same kind of music worked to her advantage. She always came out lyrical and deep, and not like the average Malawi gospel artist. But still, ‘Esther’, for now, has not been people’s choice. There could be different answers to that, but the quality of the work is completely out of them. ‘Esther’ is a pace setter.
The answer to the puzzle is: ‘Esther’ is missing Grace. She is the missing link between the album and the people. Music videos and shows nowadays have evolved into platforms where musicians promote their work. The connection that results when the artist meets the people in these two platforms creates a relationship between the two.
With ‘Esther’, there is none of these and the album is lacking the life Grace Chinga could have given it. Miracle Chinga and Steve Spesho, her children, have tried to step in, but there is one enduring fact about art: When its bearer is gone, it follows suit.
Grace Chinga was known for her lively shows and bold dancing acts in her music videos. Coupled with her beautiful looks and voice, she possessed the ability of taking her music to the people. That is what made ‘Udzayimba Nyimbo’ and ‘Thandizo Langa’ great albums. She was the living ambassador of her message.
But she is no longer around. ‘Esther’ has turned to be like an unnoticed beautiful girl, being overlooked by men. A year old now, the album is a living example of how a sudden death was not just cruel by plucking one of Malawi’s all time finest singers and composers, but compromising an album that deserved to be celebrated.
But life has got its own ways. Grace Chinga was a person who deserved to live longer. She had found a purpose with her life and positively impacted on others. People were inspired by her work. Her sudden death is a good example of how cruel our existence can be sometimes. But a year later we are able to look back and appreciate a life well lived.
About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.