Because he was a rare personality who abhorred the limelight—even when he ultimately deserved it— preacher Wambali Mkandawire’s death terribly shocked his admirers.
He was a musician, a teacher, an evangelist and a celebrity who chose to embody what he preached: That messengers of God, however fallible they may be, must always exude a particular tint of reverence.
He broke stubborn barriers, thrusting to the spotlight music that taught, warned, edified and reminded all that the language of art is greater that the language in art.
That is why when messages began to trickle in that he was no more, those he had shared the stage or the pulpit with chose to listen to something else.
They knew a giant who had opted for a low life had slipped into where he had always talked about: The world yonder that lies beyond the veil.
“Wambali Mkandawire was the music. Now that I am a musician, I will tell my children of what my own father told me about this man’s music. It is good music,” wrote talented singer Patience Namadingo on his Facebook page.
Wambali lived his music. And in his music.
The guitar, his most loved instrument, struck a rare chord. It was his own feeling that nothing should be done in halves if it exemplifies the skill and talent that nature has endowed on a person.
“No, Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire. No! Why so soon? We will miss you and your lovely music,” screamed renowned communications technology expert Matthews Mtumbuka.
The brief and dreary tribute mirrored what the fallen artist had always proliferated, through his eternal gift, that add-ons of life are but shifting clouds.
“God gave us Mte Wambali; God has taken his son. May his name be glorified,” said Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo who was there close to two decades ago when the gifted musician had a concert at Chancellor College in Zomba—the institution he had later visited several times with the gospel which he professed in performance and preaching.
For an artist whose music offered therapeutic treats, there should have been more time in the world to help in healing the mentally troubled nation spinning out of control with a scourge that is forcing everyone to live differently.
But fate has its own script.
“The night is long, Lord. We are waiting for the morning. Please, show us mercy; heal our hearts. Sojourn well, Evangelist Wambali Mkandawire,” wrote songbird Thoko Suya of the Jazz and traditional beat music icon who succumbed to Covid Sunday morning.
Wambali was one of Malawi’s most prolific musicians, releasing over 100 songs in a nation that seldom values its artists.
He always had the audacity to defy conventional predictions about what kind of music his fans expected from him at a particular time.
So, he listened to his spirit, and gave out just what he believed in.
To him, time was a temporary affair, yet a long-lasting phenomenon if it were preserved in music.
That is why when the Covid pandemic struck at our nation’s core, his song ‘Muli Nane’ became a shipper of hope among a people devastated and stunned by a killer that is breaching the world’s strongest securities.
Shocked by Wambali’s death, veteran musician Lucius Banda simply said: “Rest well, my brother.” The post accompanied a picture of the two smiling at each other; perhaps the final act in a life shared in many ways but called back home without the usual valedictions.
When he lived, the Jazz musician threw his life into his music. Now he has died, leaving behind a legacy that might take forever to be altered; because he lived in his music—his symphony orchestra.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. He believes that quality reporting is critical in bringing positive change in communities. Alick is the Southern Africa Development Community journalist of the year (2020) in the television category. Follow him on Twitter @aponje