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Tribute to veteran singer Flora Makonyola

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Veteran singer, song writer and composer Flora Jolly Makonyola is dead.

Makonyola died in the early hours of yesterday at Chitawira Private Hospital in Blantyre.

Her grandchild Steve Potani said yesterday that late Makonyola suffered from asthma and heart failure.

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“It’s sad she is gone but we thank God for her life. Honestly, she was a hard working person and did not want to be a failure. She instilled this hard working spirit to the family. She died peacefully,” said Potani.

He added that late Makonyola dedicated her life to God and was until her death a pastor at Livingwaters Church in Blantyre.

The singer, who was born on December 12, 1946, received a Lifetime Achiever Award in 2011 during the Malawi Music Awards dubbed the Grandest Gathering of Celebrities.

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This was her first award since she started music and she was filled with joy saying she never knew she would be rewarded one day and she shockingly beat the other fancied nominees Lucius Banda, Paul Banda, Mjura Mkandawire, Wambali Mkandawire and Giddes Chalamanda.

The present generation might not know her but the song which raised her profile in the music circles is ‘Sanjika,’ in which she was praising late Hastings Kamuzu Banda for building the magnificent Sanjika Palace.

She recorded the song with support from Kudya Resident Band with the other songs being backed by MBC Band.

According to Potani, late Makonyola, will be buried at her home in Zomba tomorrow.

“Her remains will be taken to her home in Chimwankhunda around 10am from College of Medicine and then there will be a service at Livingwaters Church and thereafter we will leave for Zomba and the burial is on Friday [tomorrow],” said Potani.

Mus icians Union of Malawi (Mum) President Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango said he was saddened by late Makonyola’s death saying she was an inspiration to him.

“She contributed greatly to the development of music especially among women, this is a very big loss. Actually I used to perform some of her songs in the past years,” said Mhango.

Veteran musician Bernard Kwilimbe, who once shared the stage with her when she was performing with MBC Band, described her as someone who had a passion for music.

“As a social cultural animator let me say it here that those who gave her a Lifetime Achiever Award in 2011 were not wrong. She lived music and she actually would have told you more of the actual source of the national anthem [Michael Sauka]. She knew part of the composition,” said Kwilimbe.

Kwilimbe, who is the Deputy Director of Culture, said late Makonyola’s idols then in the music circles were Dorothy Masuku and Mirriam Makeba.

“One of the popular songs she composed is ‘Sanjika” which she recorded with Wyndham Chechamba’s Zakwathu Band in the late 1970’s and by then this band was a resident band at Kudya. The other song was ‘Tiwonge wa Ngwazi.’ You can actually see that the songs she was composing were all about praising Kamuzu but this was all because of the climate at that time,” he said.

Veteran gospel musician Wycliffe Chimwendo also described her as one of the prominent composers.

“She used to perform with MBC Band then and was one of the prominent composers. She was also a pastor at Livingwaters so this is surely a big loss,” said Chimwendo.

The Daily Times profiled late Makonyola in 2011 soon after receiving the Lifetime Achiever Award where she hinted that with the award, she would work on a new album to give the new generation the dosage of her music.

She told The Dai l y Times then that she still had memories when she was insulted and forced to quit stage performances during her first stage showing in 1978. She was branded a prostitute.

Late Makonyola used to perform during the times of Moses Mitochi, Mjura Mkandawire, Kwilimbe, John Jika, Chechamba and Mike Kamwendo.

She described herself as a singer who comes from a music family.

“Music is not strange to my family. My father Reverend Makonyola and my mother were singers in the church and I started gospel music by learning from them. I used to perform at Sunday school and then later with church choir at Zomba CCAP,” she told The Daily Times then.

Late Makonyola said in those days, MBC advertised that they wanted to do recordings for any musicians who were interested and it was then that she teamed up with her brother Godfrey Makonyola and his friend Jadson Moyo adding that they practised the night before the actual day and that they made it.

The songs they recorded included ‘Dziko Lathu Labwino,’ and ‘Ufuluwo.’

Later Makonyola released a song ‘Masiku Kudandaula,’ which was a dedication to late Kamuzu Banda and later went on to compose another song ‘Nakubala.’

Late Makonyola hailed from Likhakama village, Traditional Authority Mwambo in Zomba.

The veteran singer said in 2011 that she was at great pains because she had been left with only one of the five children. The other four died.

Later, Makonyola went to the United States at the invitation of a friend who, having seen the loss that she had gone through, wanted to give her another environment for a breather.

Late Makonyola however, took the responsibility of looking after her grandchildren and said then that she was proud that they were all educated. One is an architect; the other one has done Information Technology while the other is a welder.

The veteran singer stayed in USA for seven years and came back to Malawi in July 2007.

Although she dropped out of school because of the first pregnancy, late Makonyola went back at some point. She started her primary school in Zimbabwe and later Zomba CCAP where in 1969 she was selected to Masongola Secondary School where she failed to go because of the pregnancy.

In 1972, she went back to school and was selected to Chiradzulu Secondary School. In 1973, while still in school, she got a job and developed an interest in secretarial studies.

She worked for the National Assembly for three years and resigned later and joined the Polytechnic where she only worked for a year.

“I loved the job but I found it tough because s o m e lecturers were doing silly things and they ended up reporting me to the principal that I was rude. So, I decided to quit,” she says.

In 1977, she joined Hardware and later Press Holdings in 1978. Later she joined Press Corporation and then Press Bakery where she was Personnel Assistant before retiring in 2000 on medical grounds.

Until her death, late Makonyola was a pastor and administrative secretary at Living Waters Church’s Wings of Eagle Bible College. She also had a ministry known as Hope Ministries.

She said then that she was happy to be spending her time worshipping God and that she was also determined to prove to the current generation her music prowess.

“I don’t blame the current generation for being surprised with my winning the Lifetime Achiever Award but they will know who I am with my music. Unfortunately, the last time I went to MBC to check for my songs, I was told they can’t find them and have to do thorough checking,” she told The Daily Times then.

She said then that she would release a gospel album once she got money for production and that she was looking at the possibility of working on the old songs using the same tune and turn them into gospel.

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