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Evison Matafale Memorial Show: From shadow of death to dust of life

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DANCE TIME— Anjiru performs

Long gone, Evison Matafale, Musamude Fumulani, Gift Fumulani, Robert Fumulani and Arnord Fumulani are still remembered for their ability to, at their peak, enter the realm of fantasy concoct timeless lyrics and leave those exposed to the products hooked— perhaps forever.

In the case of Chileka’s fallen artists that are celebrated through the free-of-charge music show dubbed Evison Matafale Memorial Show once a year, there is nothing like the true motivational factor for composing their songs being lost through the passage of time.

The lyrics and beats are simply timeless, appealing to both the youth and the old.

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That is how, somehow, messages in Matafale’s songs remain unsoiled by the paint of time, which sometimes creates a gap between passing and rising generations.

Maybe it is another testimony that music, in whatever language it comes, stands pure from prejudices, let alone bitter experiences such as those related to the death of Matafale.

This could explain why, instead of mourning Chileka’s departed artists, all of them male, survivors celebrate the departed artists’ lives instead.

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“The mission continues. Of course, without them, we would not be here. That is why we celebrate their lives,” said Black Missionaries lead vocalist Anjiru Fumulani of the artists who are celebrated.

The Black Missionaries, which continues to thrive some 20 years after Matafale died under suspicious circumstances before others such as Gift Fumulani followed, is a product of an idea nurtured in Matafale’s head.

It is a child of his imagination.

By merging his ideas, bringing people and merging them into what is called Black Missionaries to be playing instruments and backing him, and merging vision with hope, Black Missionaries band has stood the test of time by, apparently, finding a citadel in music lovers’ hearts.

Not just in music lovers’ hearts even in Black Missionaries’ members, too.

Every time they treat music lovers to the free-of-charge concert in Blantyre, they seem to gain a new consciousness, one that reeks of creativity, so that, some 20 years after Matafale gave his unceremonious bye, Kuyimba 12 album is on the way.

Truly, there is— in Chileka, in Black Missionaries’ members and in music lovers’ hearts— no longer fear of death.

On Sunday this week, when people thronged Civil Stadium to pay homage to Chileka’s fallen artists and enjoy performances from the Black Missionaries and the likes of Anthony Makondetsa, Yanjanani Chumbu and Khonzie Masimbe, happiness was the prevalent emotion.

There was nothing like anyone respecting, let alone suspecting, the shadow of death looming large over Civil Ground, let alone patrons’ countenances.

Maybe, instead of winning, death lost its sting the moment Matafale died on November 27 2001.

When the show is not held at Civil Ground, the fun spreads to Mankhokwe Ground, also in Chileka, where free-of-charge shows have been held in other years.

But last Sunday, Lady Luck smiled at Civil Ground, as this was the preferred venue this year.

Thousands of music lovers descended on the ground, which is known for its red soils, with dry grass covering the land round-about, as Chileka Airport’s well secured plane-landing grounds lie at a negligible distance.

Again, this year, musicians from Singano Village were remembered in one accord at the Evison Matafale Memorial Show.

It came as no surprise, therefore, that the names of Matafale, Musamude Fumulani, Gift Fumulani, Robert Fumulani, Arnord Fumulani featured highly at the memorial show, with Anjiru indicating that these, and others, are the people that continue to inspire the modern Fumulanis, Matafales, Makondetsas, Chumbus to keep the fire burning.

The caste of musicians lined up to perform lived up to the billing of a great show.

In the past, this was the stage where Black Missionaries Youth Band members in the names of Vincent Kanthu and Davie Tambwali were introduced to music lovers.

This is a stage where, in the past, the likes of Edward Potani, Young Generation, Skeffa Chimoto, Toza Matafale Mona, Limbani Banda, Jupiters Band and Annie Matumbi have performed, sending the message that the loss of the artists that are remembered is the loss of the music industry, and the loss of the nation at large.

That was not the case this year, which is, nevertheless, another memorable year anyway in as far as the Evison Matafale Memorial Show is concerned.

What more would the audience have asked for when Masimbe performed his one song in which an employee laments poor working conditions and chides the boss for inconsiderate behaviour and Anthony Makondetsa, who closed the show at around 07:20pm, closed the curtain with ‘Mbumba ya Abraham’ and ‘Muyuda!.

Indeed, when Makondetsa’s turn came, he did not waste time but delve straight into the business of the day, at one point dancing with his children and members of the family.

“This is the mbumba [clans people] that will entertain you when we are long gone. See and know them now,” Makondetsa said, reminding patrons that, indeed, death is everybody’s dish.

The Black Missionaries, on their part, combined Matafale’s songs with their own.

Sadly, though, government officials shunned the event.

In the past, top officials, notably Moses Kunkuyu when he served as Tourism and Culture minister, patronised the event.

But, even in their absence, nature was on stand-bye; with the brownish grass that is clearly crying for rains and shrubs of trees, apparently understanding the language of guitars, congers, drums, percussions and such other instruments, shaking in the wind from afternoon into part of the night.

Meanwhile, as patrons shook their legs in a frenzy, dust rose from the vegetation-less ground to the open skies.

And the dust, which was stirred by the lively eggs of patrons, overshadowed the shadow of death.

As Maria Nagy says in her Journal of Genetic Psychology article titled ‘The Child’s Theories Concerning Death’, he or she “who fears death is really terrified of life”.

At Civil Ground last Sunday, nobody feared death.

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