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Gentleman on stage

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Maybe Lawrence Mbenjere, who feels at home when referred to as ‘Pure Chewa’, although he has a child called Wanangwa— clearly a Tumbuka name, in honour of one of his friends— did not know that the creation of humour, sadness, and whatever form it comes in, was something that was in his blood.

Why do I say so? Simple, Mbenjere, ever careful of the image he projects to the public, has always made sure that he is decently dressed whenever I have met him. A necktie seems to be his close friend, whether he is wearing a suit of a shirt complemented by a pair of trousers.

And, so, it happened that when I first watched ‘Chiphaso’, apparently Mbenjere’s first music video, I was surprised to watch a neatly dressed man dancing honourably, as if he had been forced to dance and sing.

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The music video, shot in Mchinji District— of course, there are scenes that were shot at Dudu Farm in Lilongwe [I once visited Dudu Farm, in the company of Kondwani Martin, a guitarist well-known for his deep Chichewa compositions in Salima, where he mesmerises people by playing the bass guitar while providing vocals for his three-man band]— depicts Mbenjere as a man who does not take lightly to casual wear.

Did he [I mean, Mbenjere] not say it himself the other day, when, in his own words, he said: “It’s an obsession I have. I do not feel comfortable in casual clothes”?

Now, one day, I happened to be one of the patrons at a show Mbenjere was billed to perform in Lilongwe. As usual, Mbenjere stormed the stage dressed as a personal assistant to the president— I mean, dressed as an honourable man.

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That must be four, five years ago.

As Mbenjere performed and danced, in his decent clothes, one woman shouted: “We want to see you dancing in a short!”

Mbenjere did not respond, but continued to dance. But the woman kept on repeating the words, and Mbenjere kept on not answering while continuing with his performance.

After one hour or so, when his time on stage was up, Mbenjere went off stage, apparently ‘rescued’ from the incessant calls of the woman. Now, there is no better feeling than that of relief, when one finds his peace, without losing his principles.

Mbenjere forever! Decency forever!

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