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Remembering Evison Matafale

The name Evison Matafale will always be part of the country’s history and one cannot talk of reggae music in Malawi without mentioning the name Matafale.

Matafale was a Rastafarian who used music to speak for the oppressed. He was the founder and leader of reggae group Black Missionaries.

His death on November 27 2001 shocked the country and a lot of people had fears that this would be the end of Black Missionaries.

But 16 years down the line, Black Missionaries is still active and enjoying the limelight, continuing the journey that Matafale started.

It has been a long journey as Blacks’ lead vocalist Anjiru Fumulani said.

“We thank God that he has been with us as we continue the mission that Evison Matafale started. We are here because he cleared the path,” Anjiru said.

And, so, every November, the group has been remembering Matafale.

“Although he is not with us in body, he is always with us in spirit. Without him, Black Missionaries would not be here. We are thankful to him for teaching us all the things we are doing today,” he said.

Anjiru said, apart from the talent they have, most of the things they are doing now were learned from Matafale.

“Even [when it comes to] compositions and arrangement of songs, instrumentation and the stories in our songs, we are still using his techniques,” he said.

Anjiru described Matafale as someone who was full of stories and that he loved them.

“He showed us his love and his teachings were great and most of those have come to pass,” he said.

Although the memorial was created to remember Matafale, Anjiru said they also take it as an opportunity to remember other fallen artists from Chileka, among them Musamude, who led Blacks after Matafale’s demise, and Gift Fumulani.

“Musamude and Gift were amazing artists. They also taught us a lot and today we continue using their techniques. We would like to thank people for their continued support,” Anjiru said.

This year marks the 15th memorial show which will take place at Civo Ground, Gadaga.

It has been a challenge for them to hold the memorial show and this has seen them shifting it from one ground to the other.

“The memorial is on this year. We will hold it at Civo Ground where we held it last year. It has been a challenge every year holding the memorial show and let me say that, next year, we are thinking of changing the venue,” Anjiru said.

He added:

“Next year, we will change the venue and this has been necessitated by the challenges we have had every year. The memorial is not for Black Missionaries only but for all Malawians.”

He said Black Missionaries has been doing it alone all these years but now they want to put in place a committee that will be running the memorial every year.

“We are yet to identify the new venue in Blantyre but we are looking at a venue that can accommodate more people. We will inform people of the new venue and this will be done in January 2018,” Anjiru said.

The memorial show has been free all these years but Anjiru said they are now looking at introducing an entry fee.

“The fee will not be huge because we want everyone to be part of this memorial. The money that we will be getting will help in running the memorial but also we would create a fund where the money realised will go there and it will be used for charity as well as assisting family members,” he said.’

Matafale rose to fame and became one of the country’s favourite reggae musicians by the year 2000 through the release of his debut album, Kuyimba 1, in 1999.

The dreadlocked star was known as “the prophet” in the country and was seen as an elder amongst the community of Rastafarians.

He later disappeared from the public scene as he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was forced to cut his dreadlocks in order to get medical treatment.

Anjiru said they will continue with the Kuimba albums and that, next year, they are set to release Kuimba 11.

Kuimba is the mission which Evison Matafale started and so we are continuing with this. In January, we take a break and I can tell you that we will be in the studio working on Kuimba 11,” he said.

Anjiru said they were ready and that, by March 2018, people will start sampling new songs.

“We know people always look forward to Kuimba albums so we make sure that we take our time. We are ready for Kuimba 11 and that is what we can assure people,” the singer, nicknamed the Jewel of Chileka, said.

The reggae group has faced criticism from some quarters in some of their Kuimba albums, critics who argue that the songs were not well done comparing to the Kuimba albums created during Matafale and Musamude’s time.

Others have even said the group was riding on the popularity of Matafale.

Some people have also said that the group could have made progress by now by, among other things, having its own studios as well as creating an outlet for its products.

But others have praised them for keeping the Kuimba albums alive.

Matafale died in police custody following his arrest after authoring what was considered seditious material. He died at the age of 32.

The reggae maestro’s music was very rich as he blended political messages with his Rasta philosophy and messages of peace, love and unity.

One of the songs that still enjoy the limelight during Black Missionaries’ shows is ‘Timba.’ It is a song in which he is encouraging the youth to treat education seriously if they are to have a better future.

There is also a song ‘Yang’ana Nkhope’ in which Matafale talks of equality and that “we are all one” and that we were created in the image of God.

The song today acts like medicine and Black Missionaries always play it when, for instance, people are fighting. The song challenges them not to engage in violence but love each other.

Matafale was an outspoken political activist and his music reflects his views against the policies of the Bakili Muluzi regime.

Prior to his arrest, he wrote a series of letters to Muluzi, denouncing his government’s policies.

In the letters he wrote, he denounced Muluzi’s preferential treatment of Asian traders and accused him of exploiting ordinary Malawians.

He called on the authorities to respect all people of Malawi

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