The name Wellington Chatepa will always be part of the musical fraternity in the country as he once held the high office of President for Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) now Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) for two terms. His story has only been known as a leader holding this high office of president and not that of a musician.
During his term of office, some quarters even went to the extent of questioning his presidency saying he was not a musician and this even happened during the term of Costen Mapemba.
But Chatepa comes from a musical family and describes himself as someone, who has always loved music since his tender age. “I come from a musical family where my father, who was a career school teacher, was also a talented composer, singer and conductor, so you can see that my being in music is not at all by chance but rather it’s something which is in the family’s blood,” he said.
Apart from offering immense contribution as regards to management where he led Mam, how much then has Chatepa done in terms of showing his musical skills and does he even sing at all?
“Leadership just came later with time but singing is what has been in. My musical engagement started with the penny whistle when I was only 10 years old. I later learnt the guitar as a student at Likuni Boys Secondary School in Lilongwe,” he said.
For Chatepa, it was not just a matter of just learning the guitar and then it ends there, but he wanted to offer more to the country and thus he went on to hone his skills and upgrade himself by practicing frequently and at the same time playing in a band at Bunda College where “we had a standard band equipment”.
Despite making progress in music through learning of instruments, Chatepa only got serious with music after college when he converted to Seventh Day Adventist in the 1980s. “I got significantly inspired by colleagues like Sweeney Chimkango and his Christ in Song Quartet and several others that stole my heart in a relatively new way of worshiping God in song,” he said.
Chatepa was convinced that he had done enough in terms of getting the much needed experience and that all he aimed at now was to perform and show the best of his skills.
He later teamed up with young men at Bvumbwe in Blantyre to form a singing group known as the Gateway to Heaven. “These were great singers. I learnt a lot from them and they helped me shape my musical career. I learned from them things like coordination, discipline and voice perfection,” the former Mam President, said.
With Gateway to Heaven, hatepa went on to record with them three albums namely Pfungo, Anasintha and Tikondane. For Chatepa, music is not just music, but it is a way of life. This is why still searching for more, he went solo with two of his albums namely Musamusiye Choncho and Chibwana. His involvement in music made him get exposed to affiliations with organisations such as Mam and Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma). “My career as a musician was now catapulted to levels I never expected. I started brushing shoulders with musical greats such as Isaac Mkukupa, Overton Chimombo, Billy Kaunda, Wycliffe Chimwendo, Saleta Phiri and Balaka fraternity with the likes of Lucius Banda and his brother Paul, Coss Chiwalo, Patrick Simakweli, Ben Mankhamba and the late Joseph Tembo,” Chatepa said.
After noting his capabilities on issues of governance, musicians elected Chatepa into the National Executive Committee of Mam where he served as Treasurer General and later took over from Dave Mafuleka, who passed on within the first year of his tenure as president.
“I served as president for two terms and I also served as a board member of Cosoma. My experience at Cosoma further enabled me to interact with artists from other associations,” he said. Having worked as president for the two terms, Chatepa concentrated more on management work and never had time to work on music and let alone recording any album.
“My presidency was full of action. I would like to thank the music fraternity, government, Non-Governmental Organisations and all other stakeholders for the support. After all is said and done, I remain a musician at heart. This is why I maintain fertile relationships with fellow musicians,” Chatepa said.
And in the midst of Covid -19 pandemic, which has hit the world and continues to claim lots of lives, the creative industry has not been left behind and this has seen lots of artists producing different artworks in bringing awareness to the masses on how to avoid for instance, the spread of the virus.
This has forced Chatepa to come out and utilise his skills once again and remind people of his music by releasing a single titled ‘Dziko Lazingwa’. “I am happy to have made a comeback with this song but again, as artists we are there not only to entertain but to educate as well and this is why I decided to come out of hibernation to work on a song,” he said.
Chatepa said he was happy to take part in civic educating the masses through music. The song has been produced by Lulu, a renowned musician and producer. “My next plan is to drop a few more singles to remind my fans that I am still around, up and running,” he said. It a reggae track which has seen Chatepa not running away from his previous style especially with his Seventh Day background and he stands out with his voice in the track.
In the song, the message is clear that the world has been stunned with the pandemic and that people should follow the necessary precautionary measures in the fight against the pandemic.