You can never question the legendary status of Mlaka Maliro.
He noticeably started his career with Zembani Band, growing under the wings of Lucius Banda.
By the time he was joining the band in 1998, it was already filled with young men that would, in a few years, become the biggest stars Malawi music will ever produce.
Then, a keyboardist by instrument, and usually in camouflage regalia, a kind of dressing that complimented Lucius Banda’s moniker, Soldier, Mlaka Maliro entered the music scene with no huge expectations from people.
Musicians then talked about their projects after they were out, unlike today when publicity starts even before the artist is yet to enter the studio.
Dzanja Lalemba. One of Balaka music’s best debuts. Powerful in the sense of delivery and lyrics, Mlaka Maliro introduced himself to Malawi, and even beyond. Just in 1998, Lucius Banda, Billy Kaunda, Pat ‘A Big’ Tung’ande and Coss Chiwalo had their best albums out, but Mlaka Maliro still fought his way into the charts, market sales and radio plays.
As if that was not enough, he kept the best for his sophomore, Maloto, in 2000. The work broke music charts and sales records. It was a huge success, again, due to delivery and content.
To date, Maloto remains his most popular effort. But that was not enough from him. Three years later, after a hibernation in quality of work in 2002, he once again made a mark a year later, both times, getting noticed by the political elite.
President Bakili Muluzi divorced his first wife, Anne, in 1996. He was a bachelor for four years, until, finally, one lady, Patricia Dzimbiri, caught his eyes. After the tiresome 1999 general elections, where he lonely travelled with TOT band from Tanzania, just like any man, he had to settle down.
In 2000 President Muluzi married the love of his life in what will go down as the biggest state wedding till date. One of the notable figures in attendance was King Swati of Swaziland. Forget the political opposition the President was going through.
Most people appreciated the President’s choice. Shanil, as Patricia was fondly known, was a woman full of beauty and grace. The media attention she got was deserving.
Just before her wedding, she was interviewed by MBC, where she explained about herself. And when asked to choose a song that can be played for her, she went for the song of the moment, Nditengedwa by Mlaka Maliro, from Maloto.
As much as it was an easy choice for everyone, the song captured some feelings of the First Lady to be. In its chorus, the song goes:
Inu Mayi (Mother)
Chaka chino nditengedwa (eeh eeh aah) (This year I am getting married)
Nditengedwa ndi chikhwaya (eeh eeh aah) (Getting married to a rich man)
Chikhwaya cha Mangochi (eeh eeh aah) (A rich man from Mangochi)
Choti chikalowa m’Banka (eeh eeh aah) (When he goes into the bank)
Chitavala slippers (eeh eeh aah) (With his slip-ons)
Koma nkukatenga million (eeh eeh aah) (He comes out with millions)
Nyumba yake ya maudzu (eeh eeh aah) (He has a grass thatched house)
Panja inu pali Bwato (eeh eeh aah) (With a boat outside it)
There was President Muluzi in the lyrics. Although he comes from Machinga, a neighboring district to Machinga, they are both dominated with business Muslim oriented population.
The President was a down-to-earth man who had amassed wealth even before he was President. No wonder, she went for the song.
The President may have seemingly been enjoying his marriage, but he had to fight even harder when it came to politics. Just a year after his second marriage, his biggest political test started cooking up: He undemocratically attempted to go for a Third term, then later, an Open term in office.
For the first time in his presidency, he had to face the wrath of the nation, the same people he had convinced a decade earlier that democracy was the way to go.
He had to be forced to take a bow.
When it came to time for someone to enter in his stead, he still could not let established ways pick his successor, but exerted his influence throughout.
In his eyes, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, an unknown man he had faced in 1999, was the man. Dr. Mutharika was an unknown figure after spending much of his time working outside Malawi.
There were other notable and capable figures in the party President Muluzi could have gone for but he went for a man who was not easy to sell to the electorate.
President Muluzi never called himself a Political engineer for nothing. But his engineering did the country no favors. It only hammered his legacy as the President who understood his country much better than all that followed him. He appointed Dr. Mutharika into governorship of the central Bank.
He also drafted him into the cabinet, attempts that exposed and positioned him well for the following 2004 general elections.
The use of public resources and clever tongue of President Muluzi raised the political profile of his heir to be. MBC, as usual, played its part in advancing the ruling party’s agenda, and one of the ways was interviews with the man of the moment, Dr. Mutharika. In of them he was asked for a song to be played for him.
We too went for Mlaka Maliro, this time, Kamandisutsadutsa from his fourth album, Musalire.
Of course President Muluzi flamboyantly made fun out of that choice. But Dr. Mutharika could not help it. Mlaka Maliro had resuscitated after a bitter conflict with his mentor, Lucius Banda in 2002, over proceeds from his huge successful sophomore effort.
He abandoned recording with Paul Banda, Lucius Banda’s older brother, went to South Africa for his third album before settling for Chuma Soko for his impressive Musalire.
To impress a First Lady and a President to be; only Mlaka Maliro can do that.
About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a professional speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.