Well-timed recognition


“I have never received any recognition since I started my music and this certificate I have got today means a lot,” old-timer Snowden Ibbu said last Friday at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre when he received a certificate courtesy of Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) Southern Region Chapter.

The Chilobwe-based musician was among the list of 11 musicians who are 60 years old.

Ibbu, who plays the guitar and continues to play it with verve and own style, started music in the 1960s and he has been active.


He has several songs to his credit including ‘Ndachita Mwayi’, which used to enjoy airplay on TVM now MBC TV.

“This motivates and also tells us that there are people out there who recognise the work we have done in the development of music in the country,” the old-timer, who performed on the day, said with a little smile.

The gathering, apart from decorating the 11 musicians, turned out to be a platform where these veteran musicians also networked and shared stories on their past exploits.


Chilomoni-based musician Elias Cowboy Ziphondo has also released a number of songs including ‘Ndimakonda Magitala’ which other musicians including the current crop of musicians perform.

He was born in 1930 but he is still strong and he too was equally excited to be honoured by Mum.

“I never imagined that I would be recognised one day but I am thankful to Ethel Kamwendo Banda and team. They have done something that others have failed to do in the past years. I appreciate because I have seen the love that people have for me while I am still alive. It is a trend in Malawi where people are honoured when they are dead,” Ziphondo said.

He came to the event with a newspaper article which was written in the Friday Fest of The Daily Times in 2009 telling his musical story titled Meet Elias Cowboy Ziphondo: The Guitar Master.

Ziphondo never went to any musical school to learn playing the guitar but he taught himself through observation and practice and eventually taught others.

Another Chilomoni-based musician who was honoured was Overton Chimombo.

He is not a new name in the musical circles.

For those who have followed his musical path, they know where he is coming from and the exploits he has made.

He has released 10 albums spanning from 1979 when he professionally started music and they include Chuma and Makolo.

Although he has not been active on stage, Chimombo who turned born again and is now about to release his third gospel album, has also contributed to the film industry offering songs to, among others, Charles Shemu Joyah’s film Seasons of A Life.

“I am extremely happy with what Mum South Chapter has done and long may it continue. It is not about how much we have been given but rather the recognition. We come a long way but throughout this journey, no-one has thought of recognising veteran musicians. I was looking at some old pictures of a band I used to star with and I realised that I was the only one remaining, the rest are gone,” Chimombo said.

Some of the bands that Chimombo has performed with include Robert Fumulani and Likhubula Jazz Band, Nyatwa Sounds, Charlie D and the Boogie Express, Ebbod 6, Kalimba, Pamodzi and Love Aquarius.

Patrick Simakweli is another legendary musician who got decorated on the day.

A father to Zembani Bandleader Sam Smack, Simakweli, who is also a resident of Chilomoni, is now 69 years old.

He recently celebrated his golden jubilee in music during Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Session at the same venue.

“I am short of words with this recognition. There is so much we have done in terms of entertaining people in the country but there has been nothing in terms of honouring us. We hope Mum South Chapter’s gesture will be emulated by other players out there,” Simakweli said.

The singer and guitarist has performed with different acts and they include Mellowtones, Crystal and Eagles.

He has also performed with Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire in Sounds Pentagon.

With his musical skills which he describes as inborn, Simakweli has passed on knowledge to tudents at University of Malawi in Zomba, St Andrews High School and Jacaranda School for Orphans in Blantyre.

The list also had Henry Kamwendo, a father to Kamwendo Banda, who used to star with Kamwendo Brothers alongside Samson and Willy Holla Kamwendo.

Kamwendo is still strong but not active in music as he used to do with Kamwendo Brothers.

Born on May 14, 1957, he used to play the guitar and also voice in Kamwendo Brothers having joined in 1975.

“It’s been a journey in music and there are times I recall those moments and that time we used to perform frequently at French Cultural Centre. This was a home of artists in terms of performances,” Kamwendo said remembering albums such as Kumalewule and Mama which made headlines in the country.

Men dominated the list of the awardees with only one woman and that is Eneles Mseula.

Mseula, popularly known as Nankungwi for her advice in her music, has been active in the past years in terms of live performances and at one-time she won the hearts of many people with her traditional live acts during Chibuku Road to Fame competitions.

“I am thankful and praise be to God for this recognition,” she said.

Having been invited by President Lazarus Chakwera where he was also decorated with a trophy and other items as part of celebrating his 92nd birthday, Giddes Chalamanda was also decorated on the day.

Chalamanda travelled all the way from Mazuwa Village, Chiradzulu to receive his certificate and other items.

“Music is important. You cannot live without music. Music brings hope where there is hopelessness and it removes stress. I am happy to be honoured by Mum South Chapter. I would like to thank God for all this. Let us strive to thank God for everything,” the legendary musician popularly known as Agidde said.

Despite being 92 years old, Agidde continues to perform and show people the beauty of music through his live performances.

The other musicians who were decorated were Davie Phiri who plays different instruments including drums and has nurtured a lot of budding musicians, former Kalimba bassist Francis Chintembo, Boniface Ndamera of Lucky Stars Band famed for the hit ‘Chinafuna Mbale’ and former Kalimba and Makasu keyboardist Stain Phiri, who returned home recently from South Africa after suffering stroke.

“I have started physiotherapy and there are changes. I am ready to help budding artists wherever necessary and I am thankful for the recognition,” Phiri, who now uses a wheelchair, said.

Kamwendo Banda said despite challenges of inadequate funding for the chapter, they were determined to do more to reward their members for their sweat.

“We are not stopping here, we are also looking at decorating budding artists just to motivate them but we thought of recognising veteran musicians first. We are not done with our legends, this is just the beginning and we would like to thank people like Jai Banda (Mr Entertainer) for supporting us,” she said.

During the event, JCC Director Luc Deschamps donated K100,000 to Mum South Chapter having been impressed with the initiative and sold a concept to them to consider bringing the legends together to hold a live concert for them as part and parcel of documenting their music.

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