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Sweating for nothing

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By Sam Banda Jnr:

Kasambwe Brothers

Kukana Kuba Kasambwe Brothers Band has entertained people for ages, yet its members have been struggling in life.

When they were teaming up to create Kasambwe, they had high hopes that they would do well to live satisfactory lives.

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Kasambwe still uses old traditional instruments which need repairs and, on top of that, they need to beef up the equipment to stand the test of time.

Such is the life of the Blantyre-based group whose members live in Ndirande Township.

Some of their songs continue to enjoy airplay in most of the local radio stations and yet they have no money.

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“We have no money and, in the streets where we perform often, we do not manage to raise enough,” a member of the group, Joseph Banda, said.

Banda said there are times they feel like dumping the trade but, because of passion, they are still in it.

“When we were starting we had hope that we would go all the way to make our lives better looking at how fellow musicians outside the country are doing but things have not turned out to be hard,” he said.

Their struggle is real in that they cannot even afford to buy a guitar on their own to add to their collection of old equipment which includes traditional drums fixed with bottle tops which Fatsani Kennedy plays and then there is the Babatoni but this one has three strings and is different from the one-stringed which Konzani Chikwati plays.

All these instruments are old and need repairs. But they cannot do that for now because they do not have the capacity.

“We have this acoustic guitar which was bought by Code Sangala and friends. They saw that we did not have a proper guitar and so they bought one at K175,000. We cannot afford K175,000 for a guitar and so to them we say thank you,” Banda said.

The band is today even struggling to produce music videos let alone an album despite having enough songs.

The situation is also the same with the once popular Ndingo Brothers, which is based at their home, Nkhoma in Lilongwe.

The musical group which is among the oldest in the country, has entertained people with their vibes which include the hit ‘Simangeni’ but today they have nothing to show for their sweat.

The band has for a long time been grounded at their home because of lack of funds to hold shows. They have produced several songs which have been played on local radio stations and drinking joints but not good enough to make money.

There actually came a time relatives in their village thought they were making lots of money with their songs playing on local radio stations.

The band has members such as Namon Ndingo, who is 56 years old and joined the group in 1974— having learnt to music from his brother Charity Ndingo.

“We come from a chieftaincy family and that is why it has been so easy for us to stick together although we have benefited nothing. We are looking forward to the day we will say music has really worked for us,” Namon, who plays the guitar, banjo, boon as well as vocals, said.

Married with six children but none has interest in music, Namon said they are a frustrated group.

“When you work, you expect to get something at the end but here, in Malawi, the industry is just not paying. Maybe in future things will change but for now there is nothing, we are just doing music for passion,” he said.

Namon hails players such as Emmanuel Kamwenje of Sterling Multimedia, who have supported them.

“We are doing a second album now because Emmanuel Kamwenje convinced us that our music is good and that we should have it recorded and at the same time not lose hope. So here we are doing our second album which has strictly new music,” Namon said.

With Ndilira Bwanji to their credit, 48 year-old Steven Chidzungu, who plays the bass guitar, said despite travelling a long journey in music, they were frustrated.

“You talk of issues such as piracy where people just share songs and an artist does not benefit, this kills all the steam in us,” Chidzungu said.

Chidzungu, who started performing in the group in 1987, has six children.

Lyson Steven Ndebvuzamwayi, who is 39 and the youngest in the group, said he feels bad to see the oldest members having nothing to show and yet they have entertained people for more years.

“I just hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel someday. Music and art is something which is very important but it is not valued in the country where artists are not supported fully,” Ndebvuzamwayi said.

Kachitenga Khunzu, 47, who plays the lead, also said it is high time that the creative industry started rewarding its sons and daughters.

“We are not saying well-wishers, the government or the corporate world should just come out and give us money for free but, rather, utilise us in their services. There are times they have events and can invite us just for us to get something. There are festivals outside the country that require representation and the government can utilize. We do not need much and we do not charge much,” Khunzu, who started performing with Ndingo in 1983 said.

He said today there are also several people who are holding weddings and that they can utilize their services.

“We are there to perform in weddings and any other events as long as they tell us in advance the themes and in that way we will not leave a begging life,” Khunzu said.

For now, Ndingo and other bands are sweating for nothing and follow in the footsteps of artists such as veteran Giddes Chalamanda and Ben Mankhamba, who have bemoaned lack of support in the industry.

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