The ‘touchable’ Paul Banda


Music was everything and everything revolved around music. I mean, in those days. The early 1990s. I mean, in that land of the lake, Salima, the land I, once, did not know, then knew, and can’t forget. I don’t know why.
But, then, despite all of us appreciating the value of music, we had no means to afford music; I mean, to buy record players that would mean we could listen to the music every time we needed it.
Well, to say there was no record player within a 10-kilometre radius is wrong. There was one household that had a record player on the Takomana Escom compound then; the Machilika family.
And the Machilikas were deeply Catholic.
I mean, they were ‘addicted’ to Catholic songs— those found in the book Likuni Press shall forever own. But, then, apart from church songs, one artist particularly tickled the fancy of the Machilikas. Paul Banda!
Paul Banda, to the Machilikas, meant music.
In those days, Paul Banda had burst onto the scene of Malawi music, creating a niche for himself because he made a clear shift from the use of traditional instruments to modern, acoustic ones.
‘Mtendere’, ‘Saidi Musa’, ‘Achimwene’ and such other songs took people by storm, thanks to Paul Banda and Alleluya Band.
And the music ‘system’ of the Machilikas was powerful; even more powerful when Malawi was still in the ‘morning’ of technology in the 1990s. 1992 and thereabouts to be precise.
And the Machilikas, who used to stay in Salima then, had taste. Those days when all my parents had was a Nzeru radio set they bought in the early 1980s. And that Nzeru radio used to be tuned in to one radio station; the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Needless to say Radio One!
Times when we, kids of those days, looked forward to presidential rallies because that was the only time we had a chance to see people we could only hear of on MBC, so that it was difficult to attach name to face when one met them on the streets. I particularly, and always, looked forward to seeing the likes of Martin Chilimampunga [see you once again, a hundred years from now], David Kamkwamba [who I met for the first time in 1995, when we made a trip to MBC and found him in the studios. We were young then], and others.
Oh, what relief we had, whenever we saw, face to face, the people we adored at MBC live.
In my case, the greatest moment was when, the year former president Bakili Muluzi took over power in 1994, we travelled all the way from Salima to Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, where we met the new president on December 24 1994 as part of Khrismas Ya Ana, which was being organised by Salima Catholic Parish.
Not that only Catholics were eligible. No. Children of other faiths were welcome, too—which was good.
Oh! Muluzi was good to us. Imagine, we paid K100 to make the trip from Salima District to Blantyre but Muluzi reimbursed our money by giving us a K100 banknote each, a packet of assorted biscuits, soft drinks and other stuff I will forget when dead.
My younger brother Madalitso [he prefers the name Blessings] refused to join us on the trip because he wanted to keep the K100 in his ‘private’ bank at home. Oh, you should have seen the disappointment in his eyes when he learned, once we were back in Salima, that Muluzi had given us K100 each, biscuits, soft drinks and other things.
Actually, I refused to share the biscuits with him. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Now, that was bad. I repent! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
If we had to turn back the hand of time, I am sure Madalitso would join us on the trip to Sanjika, for, surely, Muluzi is sure to give us K100s. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Well, forget about Muluzi’s K100s for, four months later, I got a real treat. Paul Banda, the man who only existed in audio tapes then, visited Salima Community Hall for a performance as part of a promotion that saw Izeki ndi Jakobo and Madolo perform.
When I saw Paul Banda outside the hall, smiling broadly, it was a dream come true.
It was a dream come true and, every time I listened to Paul Banda’s music, I could always see the man smiling. Broadly.
He still does. In my mind.
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