Even as Covid-19 ravages the world, it fell, from Sunday night to early Monday, upon Cos Chiwalo, Alleluya Band’s leader, to keep music lovers away from such depressing matters as the pandemic.
Sure enough, he kept audience members’ lives unsullied by depressing news of the pandemic, which has come back with a bang after mutating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Not surprisingly, the dance-floor was littered with enthusiastic patrons who sang along at Scallas Café in Blantyre— which, itself, made its own rebound when it reopened on May 21 this year, after suffering a temporary knock from coronavirus through the imposition of restrictive measures by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19.
Bliss, as opposed to panic, was the name of the game on Sunday, when Chiwalo, who came to the stage just after 11pm, played songs that ranged from compositions of other African artists to those done by Alleluya Band in the morning of its existence.
Such songs ranged from ‘Zonse N’zabwino’, ‘Udzisankhire Njira’, ‘Ndisapite Ndi Mawu”, ‘Mudzawafuna’ and his own compositions such as ‘Afisi a ku Ntcheu’, ‘Mukanditule’ and ‘Dalitsani Achuma’.
Even those that were not expected to participate in dancing because of intoxication, pregnancy and tired legs, somehow, did not escape the impact of Chiwalo’s vice The equipment was loud enough to affect conversation, which could be why those who did not dance chose to sing along.
Before he jumped to the stage, Chiwalo said in an interview that he did not know what to expect from the audience.
“I will see how things pan out during my performance,” Chiwalo said, before going backstage, from where he appeared to dish out one song after another.
It took very little fire to make audience members smell the smoke of his energy on stage, although it must be said that the stage was too small for activities such as dancing.
Before Chiwalo, other members of Alleluya Band warmed the stage. After them came Atoht Manje, who performed songs such as ‘Kunong’a’, ‘Munthu’ and ‘Che Patuma’, to the amusement of audience members, who tried their best to stick to Covid-19 preventive measures.
In terms of space on stage, Atoht Manje said, every now and then: “We wish we could dance but we are limited by space. We would have danced our lungs out.”
But some of the members of the audience kept reassuring him that it was okay; that his voice would be as moving as his dances would have been convincing.
The assurance he could not doubt, and gratefully continued to perform one song after another.
He did not run short of devout believers in the messages in his songs.
In these days of Covid-19, surely, an artist’s satisfaction is derived from his power to make audience members’ lives serene, especially in the midst of a devastating pandemic. From Alleluya Band and Atoht Manje, many were the moments when they put that power on display.
Scallas Café has hosted a number of artists since its re-opening on May 21 2020. It has a residence band Mingoli, but has played host to such artists as Sir Paul Banda, Sam Smack, Lulu, Kell Kay, Edgar ndi Davis Band and veteran Giddes Chalamanda.
Sunday’s show was a continuation of that journey