For those who have followed Chileka-based reggae group Black Missionaries, the names of the Chokani brothers of Takudziwani and Paul are not that strange.
The two are among the pillars of Black Missionaries with Takudziwani popularly known as Taku, calling the shots as a lead guitarist with Paul spearheading the drums.
Unlike Paul, who has always remained on the drums, Taku has at times during performances played other instruments, including the bass guitar which is managed by Peter Amidu.
The two brothers said they learned music at a very tender age and that they have always had passion for it up until now that they are both married and have children.
The Chokani brothers who have come out to announce that they are reviving Wailing Brothers, a group which was started by their late brother Elias, said they have travelled a long way to be where they are today.
“A lot of people do not know our story but it has been a long journey and we have moved through thick and thin but we thank God for the gift of life,” said Paul.
Taku describes himself as a self-taught musician who started playing the guitar at the age of 10.
“We are not in music by chance but our family has been musical throughout. And so it was fair for me and my brother Paul to pursue music as a career,” said Taku.
He said that in 1994, at the age of 14, Taku who is married to a fellow artist, poet Chigo, along with his brothers and friends formed a reggae band called The Wailing Brothers and that together they released their debut album titled Jingle.
It was in 1999 when The Wailing Brothers recorded and released their second album titled Kuyimba 1 which has the hit song ‘Watsetseleka,’ and catapulted the young musicians to the top of the local charts.
The group had late Evison Matafale as its lead vocalist.
According to Taku, the group disbanded in 2000 when the founding member and lead guitarist Elias Chokani (Taku and Paul’s older brother) in a car accident.
A year later, Taku and his brother Paul along with some members of The Wailing Brothers, led by their cousin late Matafale formed the Black Missionaries band.
“So you can see, it has been such a long journey, music is what we have lived on and it is what is putting our bread and butter on the table. We have moved from the time Malawians did not love local reggae but things changed later and today it has been embraced,” said Taku.
Now aged 35, 25 years after he first picked up the guitar, Taku has risen to become a celebrated musician counted among the country’s finest guitarists and has often recorded for various local and international reggae artists.
“As I said we have revived The Wailing Brothers not because we have broken up with Black Missionaries, we are still there only that we want to continue the mission which our late brothers started. We just want Malawians to recognise the Chokani family,” he said.
He is presently working on his solo album aside being a key member of the Black Missionaries band and recently regrouped Wailing Brothers.
Taku also said that through The Wailing Brothers they want to work with several upcoming artists and give them a platform.
“We have worked with several musicians since we started and through The Wailing Brothers, we want to work with more new artists but also at the same to this is part of giving back,” said the guitarist.
While others have had the priviledge of going to school to learn music as well as playing different instruments, Taku said he did not have that chance and that he has gone on to improve his skills through practice and also sharing notes with other artists.
It is the same with his brother Paul, who is usually quiet. He said he too never went to any music school to learn how to play the drums.
Paul said he learnt how to play the drums and banjo at the age of four.
His passion for music grew when he was 14 years and at one-time he said he was chosen an entertainment prefect whilst in secondary school.
“At school I was always involved in activities with music top of them all and so I was elected an entertainment prefect,” he said.
Now 37 years old, Paul said he is happy to be among the finest drummers and percussionists in the country.
“It has not been easy playing the drums for years and playing drums for a longtime during shows. It has all been determination and focus,” he said.
Just like his brother Taku, Paul has worked with several musicians both local and international recording their music.
“Working with both local and international acts has helped me gain the much-needed experience. I recall this other time when we went to South Africa with Taku for a recording session with a reggae artist from Botswana,” he said.
Paul insisted that their reviving The Wailing Brothers is not a break-up with Black Missionaries as some people are putting it.
“We just want to continue the mission our brother started. Again we want to widen the net, we have reggae music from Black Missionaries and we want to bring in another flavor just for people to have enough in the basket but also a variety,” he said.
Paul said it is surprising that people always come up with a lot of stories whenever him and his brother Taku want to work on some projects.
“I remember in the past years we missed Black Missionaries’ shows for some time when we were recording music in South Africa and so many stories came out.”
“There are members in different bands doing their other projects but people have not said anything, so people should not bring false stories with us reviving The Wailing Brothers,” said Paul.
He said the country has made progress in reggae music looking at where they have come from where people did not entirely accept local reggae.
“In the past years, people did not give local reggae a chance and with a few outlets then it was difficult but now there are so many outlets and people have embraced local reggae. But we still have a long way to go, we need to take our music high and even embrace bigger platforms,” said Paul.
The drummer said they still remain committed to Black Missionaries and that they will divide their time to serve both bands for the good of reggae music.
But having been relegated to playing instruments in Black Missionaries, do they have what it takes to drive The Wailing Brothers?
“We have not just woken up now to revive The Wailing Brothers, we have been doing this for the past years only that we did not to come out fast and announce the plans. At the moment the album is ready and one of the music videos for the song will be released very soon. Actually during our performances we will be playing new songs,” said Taku.
The lead guitarist said this is what they have been doing since they were young and they are just continuing with the mission.
“Ofcourse in Black Missionaries people have only known was for playing instruments but with The Wailing Brothers, I for one was doing vocals and so it is just a matter of adjustment,” said the guitarist.
Anjiru said he was aware of The Wailing Brothers revival and that he was surprised with the speculations of break-up.
“Black Missionaries is intact and it’s all a lie that we have broken up,” said Anjiru.
“Wailing Brothers will be doing it the same way Anthony Makondetsa does, producing their own albums as well as holding performances but we are members of one family,” he said.
With all this said and done Taku and Paul are all thankful to God for the journey they have travelled and they are thankful to Malawians for the support over the years adding that “they love music and that this is what they do.”
Their first performance as The Wailing Brothers will be held at Jacaranda in Mzuzu on November 26.
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