Chingalire in Lilongwe is a moral place which was not that popular.
It is a place which was underdeveloped let alone having no facilities that could offer accommodation or host performances such as drama or poetry.
But today the area has transformed and boasts of having several facilities and thanks to the initiatives of Village Headman Chingalire.
For those who might not know, musician Ben Mankhamba is Village Headman Chingalire.
Mankhamba has used, among others, his talent to develop Chingalire which today has an under-five clinic.
Chingalire Rural Growth Centre today has several facilities including a hall where activities are held.
The artist has even made it possible for women in the area to establish a drama group.
Mankhamba even engaged some actors to train the women in basics of drama and now the group is doing very well.
There are different projects which Mankhamba has initiated and some of them are all about helping in conserving the environment.
The musician has even created a website www. benmichaelruralhomestay.com which is under Chingalire Rural Growth Centre.
To develop this place, Mankhamba has had to sweat using his own little resources.
“I am happy with the developments here but we still want more. We are thankful to those who have come out to support,” said the former member of Acacias Band where he used to star with Erik Paliani among other members.
Mankhamba is arguably one of the best musicians in the country when it comes to live acts.
The singer and guitarist, who has been out of the stage for sometime now, knows the stage and this is why he has in the past years dominated the now disbanded Malawi Gin Music Trophy and Kuchekuche Awards.
When he (Mankhamba) gets to the stage, he means business and he always gives you the dosage you long for.
Mankhamba has represented the country in many international festivals showing his best as well as putting Malawi music on the world map.
But despite all this, the musician has not been given the necessary support.
The country has not appreciated his music no wonder he stopped releasing albums and only concentrated on singles and live performances.
Today, the artist, who has been in the industry for years, has lots of singles with probably two albums to his credit.
His albums have simply not sold. Not that the albums are not good but his music is just too good to be appreciated by a nation that does not value quality.
Some of Mankhamba’s songs include ‘Moyo wa Mtauni,’ which won him awards in the past years, ‘Cassava,’ ‘Munthu Nkalulu,’ ‘Ndiwopa Kutenga,’ ‘Kamba Anga Mwala,’ and ‘Street Vendor.’
Mankhamba’s story is similar to that of legendary musician Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire, whose music is mature and good for the ear but he has not been supported.
There are lots of musicians in the country who have given it their all producing mature sound but their music has not captured the attention of Malawians.
It is the same with such artists like Peter Mawanga, Agorosso and Lawi just to mention a few who have been given a cold shoulder by Malawians and yet their music has ended up doing well outside the country.
Agorosso for instance has among others, composed songs for Shemu Joyah’s second movie The Last Fishing Boat which saw him winning the Best Soundtrack Award during the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in 2013.
The jury that scrutinised the 2013 entries described the sound in the movie as mature and that it gave the film a beautiful ambience compelling them to watch it over and over again.
There was a time Agorosso performed at one of the shows in Blantyre and while a few appreciated his music, many had no interest with others questioning who he was and yet this is an artist who received praise from Zimbabwean veteran musician Oliver Mtukudzi.
Mtukudzi described him as a gem adding that with support, the world was in for a shock.
Mankhamba has hinted that he has come a long way with his music but he has no idea why Malawians do not give him the support he deserves.
“I still don’t know why Malawians do not like my music but although I keep on wondering, I would like to thank those who have trusted in me and encouraged me to go on. It has been a long journey which started way back in the 1990s,” he said.
Mankhamba said he used to be a backing vocalist for Ethel Kamwendo Banda in Wepaz Band.
“But I am happy with the path I took becoming a traditional leader and I am happy with the progress of Chingalire Rural Growth Centre. As I said earlier, we do not have enough resources but with the little we have, we are pushing,” he said.
He revealed that he takes time to communicate with partners in development mainly from outside the country, who have taken time to appreciate his efforts of helping his community.
“Chingalire Rural Growth Centre is a community project that thrives on people’s involvement and commitment,” he said.
Through the centre, Mankhamba has also been sourcing scholarships for needy students.
Last year about 70 students sat for the entrance examinations competing for five scholarships to learn at Zipatso Academy.
Mankhamba’s work at Chingalire is a challenge to other artists that they can as well utilise their talents to change their communities.
“These are the people to support. I have been to Chingalire and the place has really developed. The facilities which are there have allowed us to hold performances,” said Nanzikambe actor Mphundu Mjumira.
Youthful musician Patience Namadingo recently also did a commendable job raising K15 million for the children’s cancer ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre.
Namadingo using his talent started an initiative which saw individuals and organisations inviting him to perform and thereafter they were donating money.
“Artists are there not only to entertain but also to play different roles and for Mankhamba he has done well transforming Chingalire and he surely deserves support from the corporate world and other well-wishers,” Mjumira said.
Mankhamba said apart from the several projects running at Chingalire Rural Growth Centre, he also has set up a mini French Cultural Centre.
He also said he has managed to set up vocational trainings and that he was looking to engage relevant authorities to make it vibrant.
“All this is to empower the youth in my area,” he said.
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