By Wonderful Mkhutche
Chuma Soko, one of the gifted producers to ever have graced Malawi music died at a young age of twenty five in December, 2003. But in the years he had been in the music industry, he left an irreplaceable legacy, a work that greatly changed the shape of music in Malawi. He worked with both well-known and new artists as well. Here are his greatest five productions:
- ‘Afafaniza’ by Wycliffe Chimwendo
After a slow and an underrated music career which began in 1996 with ‘Yesu Ndi Wanga’ album, Chimwendo was simply waiting for a Chuma Soko moment to give a meaning to his efforts. Taken from the ‘Sizobisa’ album, released end 1999, the song had a different sound to its times. Then, most gospel artists were yet to find their own sound, without the influence of the South African beat. The album can easily rate as one of the greatest gospel albums in Malawi. But it was this song that made the much needed promotion for the whole production. It was loved in the churches. It turned into an anthem in several church choruses. To date, it remains Chimwendo’s most known song.
- ‘Kweza Maso’ by Gift Fumulani
It was two years after the death of Evison Matafale. The rest of his band members, the Black Missionaries, were still looking for their own place in Malawi music. And they did. Their Kuimba 3 was a production that went beyond people’s expectations. But just as people were beginning to associate the Fumulani name with the band, cane Gift, who pursued a solo career. It was unlike Anjiru Fumulani, Chizondi Fumulani and Musamude Fumulani who stayed on as a group to further pursue the dream of their slain cousin, Matafale. Gift’s first single in 2003, ‘Kweza Maso’ which was included in his album, ‘Ndikuimba, launched what would be one of the greatest voices to have ever come from Chileka. His death in July, 2008 ended a growing music career. But with his first song, produced by Chuma Soko, Gift curved himself a legacy that still puts him as an admirable figure.
- ‘Kumidima’ by Billy Kaunda
In ‘Kumidima’ we see a Chuma Soko who had no studio of his own. He had the tendency of working in different studios with his trusted men like Collen Ali and Peter Likhomo. Balaka was Paul Banda’s territory. But in this song, he went there, and together with Joseph Tembo, worked on the song.
The song was controversial after its release. ‘Kumidima’ means ‘The Land of Darkness’, which applied that the artists he was singing about had gone to this land. Most people further interpreted this as hell. They thought Billy was being judgmental. It had to take the comedy duo of Izeki and Jakobo to write a newspaper note to explain the lyrics.
The song had with it a great message, mourning some of the greatest drama artists in Malawi. He mused over life and death, and easily left the listener in a somber mood. It had an easy sing-along chorus, a great beat and gave birth to the use of ‘Kumidima’ word for the graveyard. Looking back at Billy Kaunda’s career, the song easily tells how good he was during his days.
- ‘Makaniko’ by Charles Nsaku
He may have launched his career in Balaka, but Charles Nsaku made his best hits when he was out of it. His maiden ‘Chosangalatsa N’chani?’ album with Mwizalero Band was a good live studio album. The title track was on a person finding out the vanity of being famous, a topic that many musicians in Malawi avoid. But it was in ‘Ndatopa’ album in 1998 that we saw the real Nsaku. He goes down in history as one of the hard lyricist in Malawi.
And that was what we saw in ‘Makaniko’. Released in 2003, one of Chuma Soko’s last productions, the song made rounds in all the places it had to. It was a message that still remains unsung by other artists. The reggae beat in it was imposing and it coupled well with the message. It is on record that one car owner went to a garage while playing the song. A fight between him and a mechanic ensued because of the criticism the song gives to them. An unfortunate situation, but doesn’t that show how powerful the song was?
- ‘Yang’ana Nkhope’ by Evison Matafale
It was in July 2001 that Kuimba 2 was released. After setting the pace with Kuimba 1 in 1999, Evison Matafale made another effort, which ended up being his last. In his maiden album, known for its consciousness, ‘Watsetsereka’ was the lead song, due to its anthemic sound. He attempted it for the second time, and delivered.
In ‘Yang’ana Nkhope’ we see a Matafale who was discussing his usual unity message. The message can be credited to him, but it was Chuma Soko who gave it fresh with instrumentation. Produced at Aktone Studios together with the likes of Reuben Tchongwe and Collen Ali, Chuma Soko created a lasting song. The monotonous sound in the song could have easily buried someone’s career. But since it was Chuma Soko on it, it came out as one of the well-known Matafale songs.
***Article originally appeared on Wonderful Mkhuthe blog in February 2017****
About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.