Dancehall is a common, but tricky, genre, so that only a rare artist can carry it off.
Vic Marley, real name Victor Kunje, is one such artist.
So good was he— gauging by the way he crafted ‘Chidikhodikho’ and ‘Malilime’, and ‘Ndikadzamwalira’, among other songs he did either alone or with other artists— that, when one analyses the lyrics he churned out, the individual is left with the impression that, had death not claimed him on May 24 2005, we would still be enjoying his music because a man of his ilk would still be hot.
He really went a long way in laying bare issues that culture, tradition, religion or fear dressed up really nicely.
It emerges that, fear-inducing aspects such as death— which he deals with in ‘Ndikadzamwalira’— emerge in palatable form in his songs.
Although Vic Marley was human, and therefore susceptible to feelings such as those of revenge, the extreme he went to was chastisement, as in ‘Chidikhodikho’, where the persona takes a dig at those that do not wish others well.
But, either by default or design, he made it a point not to make revenge, that old theme in artistic works, the centre-point of his art.
If anything, he coloured it in a different way; a loving way— so that, at the point of his passing in Lunzu Township, Blantyre, that fateful day 17 years ago, no one was left with a bitter taste. It is the void that he left that was more palpable, more coldly felt.
They say not often is the artist rewarded, especially in this part of Africa, because, if not due to the problem of resource constraints, it is because fairness is in short supply in Malawi.
Just this week, poets and visual artists were in arms against the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma), which distributed millions of kwacha to musicians after getting its share from the Blank Media Levy.
But, as has been the case since 1994, poets and visual artists were not part of the party, which is not surprising because, as Poetry Association of Malawi President Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa indicated in the week, fairness can, sometimes, not only be one-sided but dumb as well.
It was as dumb when he succumbed to injuries in that unforgettable road accident 17 years ago.
But, according to ‘partner in crime’ Anne Matumbi, Malawians should forget everything about their failure to honour Vic Marley while he was alive and give him the greatest present of all: Holding memorials for him.
“Malawians should remember Vic Marley because of his unique style,” Anne Matumbi says.
He describes Vic Marley as a “master of his art”, citing the way he crafted songs such as ‘Kunali John Chilembwe’, ‘Ndikadzamwalira’, ‘Traffic Police’ and ‘Malilime’.
“Vic Marley was a good hip-hop and dancehall artist. That is why we held a memorial show for him in Lilongwe last Saturday.
“Surprisingly, only few individuals supported us to hold this show; people such as the owner of Skyline Printers, Epic and Apostle David Mbewe,” Anne Matumbi says of Vic Marley, who died after releasing Mau Anga.
Mau Anga was to be his first, and last, album.
The second-born in a family of eight children, Vic Marley was born on October 5 1978.
Inspired by Martin Luther Jnr and John Chilembwe’s belief in equality for all, Victor Kunje had to part ways with his father’s tradition of fighting battles silently by taking to the podium of music.
However, still respectful of his father’s desire that he do other things than music, Victor Kunje adopted the name ‘Marley’ to hide his music identify from his father.
And that is how he established himself in the nation’s psyche.
His strategy was premised on his faith in numbers.
On February 3 2005, he told journalists that “revolutionaries do not fight alone”.
As such, he did not hesitate to collaborate with such artists as Annie Matumbi, Blandina Malinga, Blackamoor and his younger brother Star Marley.
In fact, when Vic Marley died, his brother Star Marley set out on a mission to rekindle in music lovers memories of Vic Marley’s time.
Anne Matumbi did two songs with Star Marley, and one was titled ‘Apepese’.
“The second song I did with him [Star Marley] is ‘Cosoma’. Three of us did the song: me [Anne Matumbi], Star Marley and Mafunyeta, may his soul rest in peace. So, basically, ‘Cosoma’ is a collaboration of three artists,” he says.
Vic Marley, whose ‘Hii Hoo’ refrains will never be rivalled, was last Saturday honoured by the presence of artists such as Lulu, Phyzix, Blasto, Malinga Mafia , who performed with their hearts out at the memorial.
There, in Lilongwe, the shadow of greatness shined on every artist’s countenance whenever Vic Marley’s name was mentioned.
It was the artists’ eternal solution to the small ‘trouble’ of death which, every now and then, simplifies life into one formula: Life plus death equals lifespan.
May Vic Marley’s songs have no lifespan.