The Fumulani brothers of Likhubula River Jazz Band may have given birth to children who will later on dominate music in Malawi, but it was the Late Evison Matafale who made it happen. At the time when Matafale died, November 27, 2001, music from Chileka was still at its peak, resting on the rich and adorable history of the likes of Dr. Daniel Kachamba,
By then Matafale has taken over the mantle as the front man of Chileka’s stake in Malawi music. But besides him were a host of cousins understudying him. He had voluntarily incorporated them into his music path, first, in Kuimba 1 where he worked with the Chokani brothers, then, Kuimba 2 when he worked with the Fumulani brothers.
All these were his cousins. But dying after recording with the Fumulani brothers meant that he had left them in the spot. They were young then with high expectations from the public to fill up the boots left by Matafale. With Kuimba 3, the young boys proved that they could. The Black Missionaries band, as they are known, became a well-established band that would later dominate Malawi music.
But there was one unique thing. There were three Fumulani brothers in the band, Anjiru, Musamude and Chizondi. Together with the bassist, Peter Amidu, another cousin, would be the faces of the band, disregarding the Chokani brothers who had disbanded and also joined the band. More than a decade later, this will have an impact in the composition of the band.
But then, people made no stories of it. Eventually, the band was associated with the Fumulani name, until end 2003 when another Fumulani, Gift, rose to fame. His first single, ‘Kweza Maso’, one of the last songs the Late Chuma Soko worked on, was an instant success. With a militant style of delivery and lyrics that transcended his world, Gift was the new face of Chileka music.
People started seeing it as an anomaly. A Fumulani had chosen to work on his own unlike his brothers and their fathers. He was not performing with the band and in no other way was he being associated with the band. But it was easy to overlook all this. Both the band and Gift were doing well. That was what people cared most about.
But it did not go well with the other Fumulani brothers. They thought he could have worked with them and instead chose to work on his own. And here is where the secret, or you can call it a rumor, is: In their following album, Kuimba 4 in 2004, they had a song aimed at their brother. And it has everything one needs to make sense out of the subliminal jabs. ‘Unali Wabwino’. Goes the lyrics:
Kodi mesa unali wabwino iwe? Wanyozetsa mtundu wakowo (I thought you were a good person? You have forsaken your family)
Kodi mesa unali wopemphera iwe? Wanyozetsa Mulungu wakoyo (I thought you were a man with God? You have forsaken Him)
Ayi usatero, iyi ndi nkhondo (Please do not go that way, this is war)
Usandisiye ndekha, tigwire ntchito (Do not let me fight alone, let us work together)
Usatame Kaisala, sangakuike m’manda… (Do not go after worldly fortunes, they will not bury you)
Akulu amanena iwe iri ndi dziko (The wise elders say that in this world)
Chiripochiripo iwe chinafuna m’bale (One day you will need your blood)
Ngati ndimalakwa ine, kumakhululuka (If I wrong you, please, forgive me)
Led by Anjiru Fumulani, the current band leader, the song continues to say it is good when brothers work together, and not otherwise. No one from the band or Gift himself recognized the song as being subliminal. It was speculated upon for a time before other albums came in the way to bury the secret for another day.
Gift died in 2008, a year after the demise of Musamude. Their deaths were Chileka’s most dark moments when one looks at the impact they had made in their short music careers. Musamude was the band leader when the song was released. He knew the underlying message in the song. Gift being the target; and all tragically dead in their prime years, Anjiru and the rest made sure the feud too went along in respect to his fallen brothers.
About the author: Wonderful Mkhutche is a professional speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.