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Martse: Ghetto youth’s sojourn

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DIED ON MAY 23 — Martse

Don’t forget to remember me coz I will be here even when am gone.

On 23 January this year, Malawian hip-hop artist Martse (born Martin Nkhata) wrote this update on his Facebook page:

Exactly four months later, this week on Monday May 23, the entertainment world in the country woke up to the shocking news that Martse, 28, had breathed his last at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre where he had been referred to. This was just days after news broke that the artist had been caught up in a fire accident at Cape Maclear in Mangochi District.

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As regards circumstances leading up to his death, until such a time when there is a conclusive report from Malawi Police Service regarding what caused the accident and what actually happened, I would choose to ignore all the speculation people have been peddling.

I never met or knew Martse personally but the hip-hop aficionado in me would, in mid 2000s, force me to take notice and listen to what I had considered serious underground hip-hop music and among those artists that were making necessary noise were the likes of Pittie boys, Krayzie G, Gwamba, Strago Mwanache and of course Martse. Some of his early offerings include ‘Go Deeper’, ‘Mwapindulanji’ (a cover of the original song by Billy Kaunda, and ‘Mabala’ which was another cover song, originally done by Lucius Banda but Martse gave it a Hip-hop touch.

By this time, the likes of Phyzix, Third Eye, Dominant One, Daredevilz, Strategy, Basement and Young Kay (Hyphen) were already regulating M-Dubz hip-hop arena. It therefore brought more hope to many when the likes of Martse emerged as they brought assurance that the future of M-Dubz Hip-hop was secure. Being somebody who has closely followed Hip-hop, I always feel elated whenever somebody new emerges to stamp their mark on the rap scene.

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Talented, enthusiastic, a bit controversial at times; all this best describes the artist who, within the short period that he has been at the top of his game, commanded a large following with his music and other escapades, particularly among the millennials. You could never miss him on a track because of his signature cue ‘Too ghetto too gutter’ and another popular one ‘dikira ndiyimbe nyimbo ina ibebe’.

With my young brother, we had this habit of peeping into each other’s hip-hop music collection and that is how I stumbled upon the artist. Just as is the case with Hip-hop elsewhere, we are talking of the kind of crude hip-hop that you would not ordinarily find being played on the radio.

Martse certainly made people turn heads to look when he released the track ‘Mwano’ on which he featured Kell Kay. He seemed to have found his groove when it came to churning out love themed songs; ‘Dosage’ on which he featured Bucci as well as ‘Ndi ine’, on which he again featured Kell Kay, are classic examples.

He was equally lethal when it came to doing typical ‘bad boy’ Hip-hop songs and some of the notable tracks and collaborations include Adidas, Zikomo (by Fredokiss), Vube’s Chindekha, to mention but a few.

His death has pierced many with grief to the core and one of them is rapper Hayze Engolah.

“Prior to him being a musician, me and him grew up together actually in Chitawira, sharing the same dreams to make an impact in the industry, I will remember him always as a vibrant person, selfless, brutally honest person as he always spoke his mind,” he said.

Indeed Martse was as free as a bird and one can attest by what he always put up on his social media page. Whether it was checking the heavy handedness of the police, he would surely call them out via social media, This other time in April, he had a misunderstanding with some organisers of a show and he wasted no time in giving out his thoughts.

“I don’t care how big a show is but if the organisers talk to me in a stupid way I will show them that I am the one making the money for them not the other way round. God gave me this talent so I should be entertaining people. I went to school for knowledge I can find a job and work in an office,” he wrote.

One of the key ingredients of Hip-hop is ‘beef’. This is where people playfully take aim at each other with crude words or lyrical punches and Martse knew how to play his cards. It did not matter who it was; whether it was his personal friends such as Phyzix whom he playfully enjoyed mocking now and again on his page.

“Phyzo ndinangofika pomuzolowera…kaya amatha kuyimba kaya samatha koma ndinangomuzolowera…But he has been there since Cholapitsa he will be here for a long time…Let’s respect this man,” he wrote.

And once people start blowing steam in the comments section, he would quickly move in to calm them down, revealing that the post was a mere joke as he is good friends with Phyzix.

Engolah agrees that Martse brought excitement through his outspoken nature.

“…He spoke freely and even when you go on social media the last pictures that he posted, he was with children, smiling and so I will remember him as someone who wanted to make every person around him happy,” he said.

Radio personality Joy Nathu said Martse was in a class of his own.

“He was a brilliant artist, one unique thing was that he was not afraid to speak his mind, he was listened to by all ages, you just need to look at songs like Mwano to appreciate and was highly regarded in the Hip-hop industry,” he said.

Just a few days after celebrating his 28th birthday, Martse had announced his intention to roll out a project seeking to purchase desks for learners in primary schools in the country, and had hinted that he was scouting for a partner with a similar goal, with whom he would explore ways of working together.

“I am starting a campaign to raise funds for primary school desks in this country! I am tired of complaining about the problems of this country, I will be holding hands with whoever is willing to make a difference and put each of these primary school learners on a desk!” he wrote on his facebook page.

Sadly, Martse would never live to see that dream realised as he was laid to rest at the Area 18 Cemetery in Lilongwe on May 25, 2022.

It would be good if we all could, as a country, fulfill this dream that Martse had of purchasing desks for primary school learners. It certainly would be a great way of honouring his memory.

So long, ghetto youth, as your sojourn continues into the next life.

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