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Soldier soldiers on

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Legendary musician Lucius Banda popularly known as Soldier will tonight launch his 18th album titled Thank You at Robin’s Park Hall in Blantyre before dating Wakawaka in Lilongwe on Sunday.

The old-timer, who started music in 1985 when he was 15 and is now 45, has through his long music journey been driving his own group Zembani Band, which some quarters feel has failed to grow.

But the musician says when he was forming Zembani Band having moved out of Alleluya Band, he knew that there weren’t many musicians and that he wanted to unearth talent and at the same time raise musicians.

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“I wanted to raise musicians so that Zembani Band becomes that big. I wanted at the right time to pull out and become a manager, be in the office and make sure that musicians were growing but one by one they started leaving Zembani and the image was even dented. So there was no headway, we kept on bringing artists until we got tired,” said Soldier.

Soldier said having tried all means to build artists they, could not hit the right note such that they decided to move out and concentrate on musicians who have already made a name.

“This is why at the moment we have artists like Nepman and Sam Simakweli, who have already made a name but we want to push them up so that they bring out more to the people. On their own they cannot do it and so this is where Zembani Band is at the moment and this is why some people still fault us in terms of building other top artists,” he said.

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The musician bemoaned gossip among Malawians, saying this is why there is no progress in the country.

“We spend most of our time gossiping instead of working, today I feel sorry that we failed to keep some of the musicians in Zembani Band but this was also all because of gossip. We gossip a lot and we in turn end up destroying each other. We will still continue to drive Zembani Band and see where it takes us,” said Soldier.

The musician has been performing with his son Johnny in some of his shows of late and asked if his son would follow his footsteps, Soldier said:

“He will surely follow my footsteps, actually, we have identified talent in our children but for now they have to do the necessary education and go as far with their studies because education is very important and if music does not fall into what they want then probably they will do it as part-time but there is talent as some might have noticed during shows,” said the creator of the hit ‘Cease Fire.’

With Malawi failing to have representatives in international awards such as Channel O and the recent MTV African Music Awards, the musician said this was worrying but he said the country will get there.

“We need to be part of these awards if our music is to be appreciated but then to the other side as artists we need to pull up our socks. We need to start valuing and appreciating our talent. As artists we are so greedy as we want to be doing all things on our own for instance we need managers and producers. In other countries our friends work in numbers but here we want to do all the work on our own which is not easy,” observed Lucius.

The musician, who is now a Member of Parliament, called on fellow musicians to start working together than working alone, saying in unity there is power.

“Our Nigerian counterparts for instance, they work together and help each other and this is why they dominate during awards, everyone is involved as far as producing music is concerned but here we want to do things on our own, we need to wake up,” he said.

Coming back to the launch of his 18th album, the musician said the two shows over the weekend will be historical, saying Blantyre and Lilongwe are big parties which Malawians should not afford to miss.

“We want Malawians to come and party and celebrate music with me. They will pay K2,500 on the door and get a free CD which is well packaged. As I said there is maturity in this album, what we have put in this album is a package of mature music without considering the market, it’s an album which has already started receiving an overwhelming response although people have only listened to three songs,” said Soldier.

He said people have only listened to three songs for now and that they should now look forward to listening to the 11 remaining songs.

“There is a concentration of gospel and secular songs and actually I could have gone with another song as the title track but I felt the English song ‘Thank You,’ was the best as it highlights the word thank looking at where I have come from. This album is feeding the body and the soul,” he said.

Having grown his music through his brother Paul, who is arguably one of the talented musicians the country has ever produced, Soldier said he would have loved to work with his brother in the Thank You album but he said he had little time.

“I wish I worked with Paul because this is the man who made me to be where I am today but I just didn’t have time. I have been very busy as a Member of Parliament being in the House and serving my constituency. For your information I have recorded some of the songs during tea break at Parliament so it has not been easy,” he explained.

He said he has worked with several talented artists in the 14- track album revealing that he has featured gospel musician Thocco Katimba in the song ‘Yahweh Wandimasula.’

“I have worked with Layison Njati aka Anko Layi in the song ‘Ndilirabe.’ I have also worked with Joseph Tembo and Amos Mlolowah. Again I have worked with Lulu in the title track. But having worked with several artists in all the songs I went to South Africa for mastering. My going to South Africa is not underrating Malawian talent but I just wanted to use more hands so that I come up with the best,” said Soldier.

The artist has used the talent of Lulu in the title track ‘Thank You.

“It’s an interesting album, I also have a song titled ‘Rita,’ in which I have worked with a Zambian artist and this is more like a tourism song packaged in a romantic way,” said the musician.

The launch this weekend will bring on board both secular and gospel artists and Soldier said he has a mission to unite gospel and secular artists in Malawi.

“As musicians we are all one and yet here sometimes it has been difficult where gospel work on their own and do not want to associate with secular artists but this is not the case in other countries where artists work together. You will notice that although other artists do secular they do gospel music as well. So on this day we are going to learn from each other and share the word of God,” said the musician.

Soldier said he has all the reasons to thank God and that through this album he is celebrating 30 years in the music industry and that he is releasing the 18th album after winning a seat as a Member of Parliament.

“Looking at how I was removed from Parliament during my first term and now I am back its something I need to praise God for. Malawians have supported me, God has favoured me and all I can say to fellow musicians is for one to go all the way in music, you need to know what you are doing and to love what you do. But the truth of the matter is that there is little that music gives you in the country,” he said.

The launch tonight at Robin’s Park and Wakawaka on Sunday will be spiced up by performances from other artists and they include Black Missionaries, veteran gospel singer Allan Ngumuya, who is also a Member of Parliament, Soul Raiders, Skeffa Chimoto, Lawi, Nepman, Lambanie Dube, Anthony Makondetsa, Sam Simakweli and Yanjanani Chumbu.

The musician who received the Lifetime Achiever Award in 2013 in the Music Malawi (Muma) Awards spearheaded by Media Corp and Trocadero in partnership with Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) alongside his brother Paul maintained that Malawians have supported the music industry by patronising shows and buying CDs.

“The industry has grown but the biggest challenge is piracy, I just want to appeal to people to get original albums, as musicians we produce albums because we love music. It’s becoming hard for artists to record music because you invest a lot of money and all you get at the end is nothing. I for one I have spent over K3 million recording this album. So with piracy it’s hard and slowly musicians will give up and a few will remain,” said Soldier.

The musician said he has enjoyed the good times and that the hard times he has learned from them and carried on.

“My family has been supportive and it has been a huge sacrifice to the people of Malawi, my wife is a strong woman and understanding because I am always out during shows but thank God that after all this she has understood and all this has really been harsh to her and the children but it’s all because I wanted to bring food on the table,” he said.

Soldier started live performances with Alleluya Band as early as 1985 and then went on to release his first album Mabala in 1994 and this year he says marks 20 years has been recording albums. Some of his other previous albums include Down Babylon, Cease Fire, Cell 51, Time, Survivor and Unity.

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