Nation mourns Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire
A dark cloud has befallen the world, painful loss, devastated, shocked, speechless, cultural tragedy and heartbroken is what artists and players in the creative industry said yesterday following the sudden death of music heavyweight and icon Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire.
Wambali died of Covid Sunday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.
The legendary musician was an icon for Malawi just as mbira star Oliver Mtukudzi was to Zimbabwe.
Wambali’s death comes barely a week after the country lost renowned DJ Kenny Klips Wako. The country has recently also lost legends such as broadcaster and musician Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma and actor and playwright Frank Patani Mwase.
Former Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) president Bishop Chimwemwe Mhango, who had a stint performing with him, confirmed of his death Sunday.
“I am at pains. He was my brother, spiritual mentor and inspired me to go solo. It is a huge loss not only musically but also spiritually,” Mhango said.
Zilanie Gondwe, who was at one time Wambali’s manager, said the music maestro will be remembered as the greatest musician for the timeless wealth of music he has bequeathed not only Malawi but the world.
“In our great sadness, we honour the life of our gifted Mtebeti, his devotion to God, his beloved family –daughter Tawonga and wife Wambui, fervent pastoring and passion for serving the people of this country,” Gondwe said.
Sangwani Munthali of the ‘Mahomwa ya Fumu’ fame, who has been likened to Wambali for his music, said he had lost a father.
Veteran broadcaster Willy Soko also described Wambali as a great musician.
“I was priviledged to back him up in a song ‘Mazgo’ together with Pastor Mtegha. The arrangement of the song was marvelous. Some jazz mixed with rock but flavoured with a typical village Vimbuza beat,” Soko said.
Saxophonist and music lecturer Richard Deja was also shocked with Wambali’s death.
“A musical legend has left us today. Wambali Mkandawire was an innovator among innovators. His wisdom was literally beyond works.
Author John Lwanda, who is based in Scotland and has published a book tracing the musical landscape of the country, said Wambali’s death leaves a big void “in our cultural space,” he said.
“Another source of wisdom and musical education lost. Wambali composed, trained and mentored musicians to quality levels,” Lwanda said.
Wambali was born in Congo on July 10 1952.
In 2002 he raised the country’s profile on the world stage when he was decorated with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) Award for Creativity.
He was nominated for the Kora Award in the Best Artiste from Southern Africa category for his work ‘Zani Muwone’ and in 2003 he won the South Africa Music Awards (Sama) for Best African Artiste.
With Manyasa, he went on to release the album Up and Down the Shire which is packaged with songs such as ‘Wona’ and ‘Kuwala kwa Mzinda’.
The legend released nine albums including Tizamtamanda, Moto, Calabrash Breath and Zani Muwone.
In 2014, Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam), now Mum, in partnership with other players, decorated Wambali and other players with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born Glyn Mkandawire, he is survived by a wife and daughter. Wambali came from Mlowe Village, Traditional Authority Mwamlowe in Rumphi District.
Wambali was laid to rest yesterday at Area 18 Cemetery in Lilongwe.