Malawi top band Blacks get stick for lackluster Kuimba 9

Fresh off releasing their seventh studio album ‘Kuimba 9’, Malawi’s top band the Black Missionaries have come under severe criticism for sub-standard workmanship.

The Chileka band launched ‘Kuimba 9’ to a lukewarm reception at Robins Park in Blantyre on Friday. The Capital City launch at Lilongwe Hotel on Sunday evening was a different affair however, as scores of fans filled the venue to capacity.

Patrons to both venues received copies of the CD upon entry to the event.

However, in the wake of the launch, critics have torn the album apart, accusing the Anjiru Fumulani-led band of lacking creativity, originality and innovation.

The band is being accused of failing to come up with fresh ideas.

Kuyimba 9 CD cover
Kuyimba 9 CD cover

In a Facebook comment, The Nation  newspaper’s deputy editor Aubrey Mchulu noted that after attending the launch  and listening to the album, his verdict is that it is still lacking like its Kuyimba 8 predecessor.

Prompted by this, scores of other commentators took turns to rip ‘Kuimba 9’ apart.

Bordingtone Msulira noted: “That’s exactly the same verdict that I have been toying around with. Somehow I am of the view that recent albums of the Blacks haven’t been as tight as their earlier ones.”

Arts journalist James Chavula who has followed the Blacks over the years remarked that having listened to the current album, his verdict remains the same that struck him a year after Musamude’s departure: “May His Soul Rest in Peace not only because he was a great personality and a stunning singer but he left a daunting tasks the remnants fear even to attempt. If you look at the quality (especially the lack of it) in Kuyimba 9, yours is an encounter with a band that has surrendered to their pitiful status as bottom-sellers of CDs and Tapes, but want to maximise their image and sales through live shows.

“Fortunately, they are lovable performers. Sadly, they cannot maintain their relevance on show without a bulk of new songs that are beyond reproach. This is why they must up their game in studio too. Until competitors and substitutes to their gig culture finally stand up to be counted, the Blacks will continue tumbling down.

“Makondetsa is getting better not just in my preference but also beating his history and restyling his beats (although Pozanditenga sounds similar to Podzanditenga and Fire Time resembles Alipompano). During the period Makondetsa has shifted from Pantondo reggae ya Kamberembere to serious music, the Blacks have recycled the post-Musamude styles far too often for an undiscerning mind to mistake Kuimba 9 for a new album. Somebody must stand up and get the band to go back to basics. New music is not all about new lyrics, but new beats and arrangement as well. Music is a much broader harmony than just the songwords. Something must give to gift us a rebirth of the Blacks we once treasured. Mwina tikanalimbikira kwera yakale ija.”


Taonga  Sabola cheekily quipped: “I think they should be called Anthony Makondetsa and The Black Missionaries”

Mchulu returned to the forum to remark that the Blacks’ decline is of their own making.

“It’s like nowadays, the Blacks spend more time on the road than concentrating on improving their output. I recall the years when the Blacks would seldom perform live and every show they held was oversubscribed. Nowadays, as you drive around town and see some cars parked you ask what is happening, you hear the Blacks are performing here’. Sad. In my Kuyimba Series collection, the last one I spent my money on was Kuyimba 6 before the Kuyimba 9 we were made to buy on entry as the price was added to the entry fee.”

Another pundit noted that ‘Bambo Nowa’ in Kuimba 8 and ‘Angochimwirabe’ in 9 shows something: death of creativity. “The two songs get nipped away from Adventist choral songs and the Blacks do what? Little or no adjustments at all. That’s tragic.”

Music producer and ex-Chancellor College Music Ensemble chorister Kondwani Bright Simbota was more practical in his criticism: “A decade ago (and currently in the West), artists produce(d) demo compilations. This was their reference album list. Producers would preview the album, tear it apart and help the artist compile an appealing album. I believe Lucius Banda still does this. If the Black Missionaries produced a Demo and presented it to their producer and sponsor, then together they take blame for failing to improve on their legacy. This is similar to instances where the whole album has only ONE track that hits it and the rest fail to live up to the standards. Sponsors and producers must come in to beef up the album.

“I choose to attribute this, and the Black Missionaries album, and the stunted development of the music industry in Malawi, to failure to embrace the importance of specialization. Not all best sellers are great composers, or song writers, or performers. The case of Anthony Makondetsa, he has great compositions rich in musicality, the songs are written professionally, and the performance is classy – that’s what makes a good song. But who knows, he may not have to do all that himself, I know for sure that there is a great producer behind that album. But great producers are great because of great compositions. Finally, it has happened before where an album was withdrawn, improved, and re-launched (food for thought).”

So was Harey Mangulenje who offered to help to Blacks: “For the first time they could have featured female voices on their back voices, don’t tell me there are no female rastas in Malawi! For the first time they could have featured a few rappers in some songs to riff tiff up their choruses! There are many good rappers in Malawi who cud make a difference! You can’t listen ma voice ama Blacks song one mpaka 12, you need a breather.”

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