The first time I was subjected to a long course of Sweeny Chimkango’s music was in 1998, when I visited Kauye Village in Dedza District for school holiday.
Need I say that the village is home? Well, it is. The msitu is part of the home, too, even though it is supposed to be the land of imaginary lions and other wild beasts.
After all, don’t the Ngonis, of which I am one, sing:
Kumanda kwa bamboo anga/
Kumanda kwa bamboo anga/
Kumanda kwa abambo anga kumalira chiyani?
Of course, they sing. But I am yet to prove that. And not hearing the ‘sound’ of a nyengwa or any other wildly beast under the mid-day sun offers some relief, for, who, in their right senses, would not run away upon chancing upon the sound of a ngwenya?
For sure I can run, outpacing Henry Moyo the athlete and others— even if I know that my father, the mighty Leviano Simon, lies silently and— and one author said— peacefully anyway; as the birds— again, as that author said— sing loudly in the trees.
Now, that was a detour. Back to the holiday visit, lest I ignite the interest of ngwenyas and other wild beats! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
That time in 1998— I have forgotten the date. I mean, I can only remember the year, but not the day, number of week in the year or month. What a shame!— I was subjected to the music of Sweeny Chimkango.
I mean, I was not exposed to it. I was just one of the people who were privileged to listen to it. My Dedza uncle had bought an audio tape of Chimkango’s ‘latest’ album then. The album was well-woven. The instrumentation was superb. And, so, was the voice.
In one of the songs, Chimkango rants about inequalities in society. One English song actually features a persona who complains that he – sorry for the term, feminists!— has been subjected to unfair treatment on the basis of some physical traits and the like.
That time, I wished I could see the artist in person.
But, if the truth be told, I knew it was practically impossible.
I was staying in Salima District and used to travel to Dedza for holidays. There was no excuse that would lead to me finding myself in Blantyre.
Of course, I was born in Blantyre, at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, when democracy was just an idea and death a remote possibility. But, then, after being transferred to Salima, there was no way back to Blantyre. Or so it seemed.
Now, the people in Kauye Village – that time it was Kantchito Village— were so happy with Chimkango’s songs. I, too, fell in love with them. But there was no way I could meet the artist in person.
And, then, when 1998 was history and the 2000s had shown us their face, I started watching Chimkango on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) – it was Television Malawi, actually, before it embraced the name MBC— Television.
Chimkango used to present Cross Rhythms, a gospel music programme. Chimkango was a genius at it, for he could be seen conversing with himself on television— two faces, two distinct human beings who were one— thanks, of course, to technology.
But, even then, the thought of meeting Chimkango was a far-fetched dream. The man was just massive.
Well, until some three years ago when I had the privilege of sharing a room with him in school in a land, and at a college, that should not be mentioned.
During those years, those good times that ended in September 2016, I could watch Chimkango rehearse with his guitar. He would even do some rehearsals on songs he has been working on.
And everytime he did so, I could remember 1998. When Chimvango was just a voice blaring threw the loud speakers in one house close to the dambo in Kauye Village, Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza, Dedza.
Every time he rehearsed, I could hide in my duvet while thinking: Is this the famous Sweeny Chimkango? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Of course, he was. Is.
Now, that’s relief. Some dreams, no matter how far-fetched they maybe, come true.
Don’t scratch your head, Sweeny! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
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